The rights of the other biological parent will need to be terminated in connection with any adoption. Their parental rights can be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. With voluntary termination the other natural parent will sign a consent to the adoption which is subsequently attached to the Petition for Adoption. There must be at least thirty (30) days between when the consent is signed and when adoption petition is filed with the court since there is a thirty (30) day revocation period. With involuntary termination, you will plead the applicable grounds for involuntary termination within your adoption petition. A filing fee is payable to the county at the time you file your petition for adoption. After filing the Petition, you will receive notice of when you are scheduled for your hearing. You will need to notify any party that is required to receive notice of the hearing per the adoption statutes in advance of the hearing.

With a kinship adoption the prospective parents will need to have three background checks completed prior to filing an adoption petition. Presently, the required background checks for Pennsylvania include (1) Child Abuse History Clearance; (2) PA State Police Criminal Record Check; and (3) FBI Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare. The results of these background checks should be attached to the adoption petition. A home study is not required. A hearing will be scheduled by the court within a few months from filing the petition. If heading straight to adoption hearing because natural parents consent to adoption the total process can be completed in a few months. If an involuntary termination hearing is required before the adoption hearing the process can take twice as long.

If contemplating an adoption you can start the process by gathering the necessary paperwork that must be submitted to the court along with adoption petition. Exactly which documents you will need to include depend on what type of adoption you are seeking. All interested parties must be advised of the availability of ACT 101 and proof that all parties received information should be retained for presentation to the court. You will need to original birth certificate for the adoptee. Additionally, prospective parents and any other adult household members will need to have the requisite clearances completed where the adoptee is a minor and the results of those clearances should be attached to the petition. A home study may be required as well if there is no familial relationship between the adoptee and prospective parents.

In a situation where the adoptee is over twelve years old, you should also have the consent of the adoptee attached to your petition. If the natural parents consent to the adoption and are voluntarily terminating their parental rights, their consent(s) should be attached as well. In some circumstances parental rights do not need to be terminated. For example, if the natural parent has passed away you do not need to request their rights be terminated however you should include a certified copy of the death certificate with the petition. Another scenario may be if you have used an anonymous donor to conceive, that documentation should be included with your petition. You should consult with an experienced adoption attorney to be clear on exactly which documents you will need to include with your adoption petition to make the process as efficient as possible.  By April M. Townsend

To effectuate a legal name change, you will need to file a petition with your local civil court.

A filing fee is due to the county at the time of filing as well as copies of your fingerprints which can be obtained at your local police department. A hearing on your request for name change will be scheduled for a few months later. If you are filing a petition on behalf of a minor, you will need to effectuate service of the petition and hearing date on the other parent. If you are filing as an adult, prior to the hearing date notice of the petition must be published in the county law reporter as well as a newspaper of general circulation. Additionally, adults must have checks through the Prothonotary’s office for civil matters, the Clerk of Courts for criminal matters, and the Recorder of Deeds for any property issues. If you have resided outside of your current county within the prior five (5) years, these checks should also be performed in the county where you used to reside.

At your scheduled hearing, you should appear with proof that all prerequisites have been met in terms of publication, background checks, and service, if applicable. Name changes are permissible so long as it is not sought for illegitimate purposes and the person seeking a name change does not have certain criminal convictions. Criminal convictions that will bar a request for a name change include murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and robbery.

If requesting a name change of a minor and the other parent does not agree with the name change, the court will decide after hearing from the parties based on whether the request for name change is in the child’s best interests. The party requesting the name change has the burden of proof and must convince the court how the requested change would serve the child’s best interests.  By April M. Townsend

 

Adoption will establish all the legal rights, duties and responsibilities as exist for natural born children between the adoptee and the prospective parent(s). Those rights and duties include, but are not limited to, the right of the child to inherit through you and your family, the legal obligation to financially support the child, the right of the child to seek support from you, the principle that these rights and duties would continue if you and your spouse separate or divorce as well as if the child develops any physical, psychological problems or becomes ill or disabled for any reason in the future.

At the final adoption hearing, your attorney and/or the Judge will confirm whether you understand the legal consequence of finalizing the adoption matter. A final adoption decree is issued following a successful hearing. Subsequent to receipt of the decree and barring any legal appeal, adoption is permanent and cannot be undone. Parties may elect to add the child to their health insurance or other benefits once the adoption is finalized and they can provide proof of their legally recognized parent-child relationship. The birth certificate for the child can also be updated at this time.  By April M. Townsend

There are a number of costs involved in a divorce action. The total amount of expenses will vary depending on the nature of the divorce. For example, a simple divorce with no assets or children will have different costs than a case where there are minor children and assets to divide. With children, custody and child support may need to be addressed as well. When there are assets, equitable distribution should be raised. Other filings that may be necessary depending on your circumstances can include a request for special relief in terms of asking the court to take immediate action on an emergent situation or intervene on an interim basis. Each county will determine which pleadings require a filing fee as well as the amount. On average, it can be several hundred dollars just in filing fees.

In addition to filing fees, you should work with an experienced family law attorney to ensure your divorce and related issues are handled properly. Most attorneys will charge by the hour for the time they spend working on your case. To that end, this expense can also fluctuate quite a bit depending on the nature of your case and whether everything goes smoothly and all parties cooperate versus if it is particularly contentious and additional litigation is required. A retainer is the initial deposit you pay to your attorney to get started. Your attorney will then subtract their hourly charges from the retainer as the case moves forward. You can help manage the costs by being organized and providing requested information to your attorney in a timely manner.  By April M. Townsend

 

If you are adopting a minor child, a name change can be accomplished as part of the adoption. Specifically, the final adoption decree can include the desired new name for the child. The first, middle and last name is subject to change where desired. The certified adoption decree along with vital records request form can be used to change the child’s name on their birth certificate as well as social security records. Vital records does assess a cost for a new birth certificate.

You may also accomplish a name change through adoption where the adoptee is an adult. In this case, you will also need to meet the requirements required for a civil name change. The adoptee must be fingerprinted and submit the fingerprint card to the court with the adoption petition. The adoptee will also need to supply record checks from the Prothonotary, Clerk of Court, and Recorder of Deeds for each county of residence for five (5) years prior to your filing at the time of the adoption hearing. Finally, notice of the adoption hearing date must be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the county as well as the local Law Reporter regarding the proposed name change. Proof publication should be provided to the court at the time of the adoption hearing. By April Townsend

A spouse can elect to retake his or her maiden name during a divorce. In Pennsylvania, pursuant to 54 P.S. § 504, “any person who is divorced from the bonds of matrimony may resume any prior surname used by him or her by filing a written notice to such effect in the office of the clerk of the court in which the decree of divorce was entered, showing the caption and docket number of the proceeding in divorce.” It is also possible to request to retake your maiden name while the divorce is still pending in Bucks County. There is a $9 filing fee payable to the court for the certified copies of the name change decree.

For New Jersey, you may also elect to retake your maiden name in the context of your divorce. Good practice is to include the request to retake your maiden name in the initial complaint. You can amend the complaint subsequently or even request the relief orally prior to your final divorce judgment. If you are looking to resume your maiden name after the divorce has been finalized, you must file a post-judgment motion with the court. There is a $50 filing fee. This process is still simpler than doing a civil name change.

Once you have the signed/certified Order granting the name change, you can take the Order to your local Social Security Office, Department of Motor Vehicles, banks, etc. to effectuate the actual change of name.

The court has the ability to order a name change of an adult or a minor child. Name changes are permissible so long as it is not sought for illegitimate purposes and the person seeking a name change does not have certain criminal convictions. Specifically, a person cannot request a name change if they have a conviction for murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault or robbery. A petition for name change should be filed with the civil court in the county where you reside. A filing fee is due at the time of filing as well as copies of your fingerprints which can be obtained at your local police department. A hearing for the petition will be scheduled for one – three months later.

Prior to the hearing date, notice of the petition must be published in the county law reporter as well as a newspaper of general circulation. Additionally, adults must have checks through the Prothonotary’s office for civil matters, the Clerk of Courts for criminal matters, and the Recorder of Deeds for any property issues. If requesting a name change of a minor, in addition to the publication requirements for all name change petitions, you must also proof service on the non-petitioning parent. If the other parent does not agree with the name change, the court will decide after hearing from the parties. A name change of a minor may be granted if it is in the child’s best interests. The party requesting the name change has the burden of proof and must convince the court how the requested change would serve the child’s best interests.

A spouse can elect to retake his or her maiden name through the course of a divorce action. In Pennsylvania, pursuant to 54 P.S. § 504, “any person who is divorced from the bonds of matrimony may resume any prior surname used by him or her by filing a written notice to such effect in the office of the clerk of the court in which the decree of divorce was entered, showing the caption and docket number of the proceeding in divorce.” It is also possible to request to retake your maiden name while the divorce is still pending in Bucks County. There is a $9 filing fee payable to the court for the certified copies of the name change decree.

For New Jersey, you may also elect to retake your maiden name in the context of your divorce. Good practice is to include the request to retake your maiden name in the initial complaint. You can amend the complaint subsequently or even request the relief orally at the time of your final divorce judgment. If you are looking to resume your maiden name after the divorce has been finalized, you must file a post-judgment motion with the court. There is a $50 filing fee. This process is still simpler than doing a civil name change. Once you have the certified order, you can proceed to Social Security, Department of Motor Vehicles, banks, etc. to have your name changed.

Click here to read more about name changes.

Additional copies of a birth certificate may be ordered from the Department of Vital Records. An application is required along with a fee of $20. Fees may be waived for members of the armed forces. Simple changes to a birth certificate can be made by agreement of the parents through the Department of Vital Records as well. Desired corrections can be stated on the back of the birth certificate and must be signed by both parties in the presence of a notary. A change in civil status form is required for a name change on a birth certificate due to the subsequent marriage of the biological parents. An acknowledgment of paternity form must be filed to have the biological father added to a birth certificate where no one was previously listed.

Following adoption, a new birth certificate will be issued upon receipt of the Certificate of Adoption certified by the local Orphan’s Court and then submitted to the Department of Vital Records. Other types of name change may require a court order. The procedures for a petition for a name change must be followed. A court order approving the name change may be obtained following a hearing. A certified copy of the court order with raised seal must be sent to the Department of Vital Records to obtain a new birth certificate. The Pennsylvania Department of Vital Records can be reached at (844)228-3516 or at the address below. Click here to read more about name changes.

Division of Vital Records
Attn: Corrections Unit
101 S. Mercer Street, Room 401
PO Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16101