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Termination of a biological parent’s rights and adoption often go hand in hand. A prospective parent cannot adopt without termination of the biological parent’s rights. A biological parent cannot voluntarily terminate their rights or sign a child away without another party stepping in to adopt. The parental rights of a biological parent can be involuntarily terminated in connection with an adoption matter as well. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights.

If the natural parent(s) agree to the adoption they can execute the required consent to adoption and waiver of their rights. A petition to confirm their consent can be filed with the court to finalize the voluntary termination of their parental rights. The natural parents should appear at the hearing to offer testimony regarding their consent. If the natural parents are not present, the parties who served as witnesses at the time the consent was executed may be called to testify as well as any notary that notarized the document. If the natural parent(s) do not agree or are unable to be located, the prospective parents can seek involuntary termination of their rights. At the hearing, the prospective parents must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the parent’s actions meet at least one of the grounds for termination as listed in the statute. After the hearing, the court may enter a decree terminating parental rights at which point no further notice needs to be given to the biological parents about the adoption. The prospective parent(s) would still need to appear at subsequent hearing to finalize the adoption.

Before an adoption can be finalized, certain parties must consent to the adoption. Pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. Section 2711, a consent must be signed by the following individuals where applicable: (1) the child(ren) being adopted if over 12 years of age; (2) the spouse of the adopting parent if that spouse is not also a petitioner; (3) the natural parent(s) of any minor child(ren) being adopted; (4) the guardian of an incapacitated child up for adoption; and (5) the guardian of a minor child or persons having custody when the adoptee has no parent whose consent is required. Only the consent of the adoptee is needed for an adult adoption. The adoptee must voluntarily consent to the adoption by the prospective parents as well as name change, if applicable.

The consent must be witnessed by two disinterested individuals. The persons witnessing the consents may be called upon in court to testify as to the circumstances under which the consent was executed. The court must be satisfied that there was no fraud or duress and the person executing the consent was of sound mind. It is good practice to also have the consent notarized and the notary’s complete address should be included. A consent executed outside of Pennsylvania can be valid here if executed in accordance with the laws of the other jurisdiction.

If the natural parent(s) agree to the adoption and are signing off on their rights, prospective parents may file a petition to confirm their consent to finalize the voluntary termination of their parental rights. In this scenario, the child is usually already in the care of the prospective parent(s). The prospective parent must consent to accept custody of the child until such time as the child is adopted. The prospective parent(s) would also need to file a report of intention to adopt with the court.

The natural parents should appear at the hearing to offer testimony regarding their consent. The court needs to verify the consent was entered knowingly and voluntarily. If the natural parents are not present, the parties who served as witnesses at the time the consent was executed may be called to testify as well as any notary that notarized the document. After the hearing, the court may enter a decree terminating parental rights if satisfied that the consents were properly executed and there was no duress or fraud. The prospective parent(s) would still need to appear at subsequent hearing to finalize the adoption. Hearings for confirmation of consent are to be confidential such that the identities of the parties involved is not disclosed.

Before an adoption can be finalized, certain parties must consent to the adoption. Pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. Section 2711, a consent must be signed by the following individuals where applicable: (1) the child(ren) being adopted if over 12 years of age; (2) the spouse of the adopting parent if that spouse is not also a petitioner; (3) the natural parent(s) of any minor child(ren) being adopted; (4) the guardian of an incapacitated child up for adoption; and (5) the guardian of a minor child or persons having custody when the adoptee has no parent whose consent is required. Only the consent of the adoptee is needed for an adult adoption. Consents of the natural parents should include the date, full address of place of execution, and be witnessed by two adults whose name, address and relationship to the person executing the consent are provided.

It is good practice to also have the consent notarized and the notary’s complete address should be included. Another practical tip is to be careful who you select as a witness. The persons witnessing the consents may be called upon in court to testify as to the circumstances under which the consent was executed. The court must be satisfied that there was no fraud or duress and the person executing the consent was of sound mind. The best witnesses will be impartial and credible witnesses with no interest whatsoever in the outcome of the adoption. A consent executed outside of Pennsylvania can be valid here if executed in accordance with the laws of the other jurisdiction.

Before an adoption can be finalized, the rights of the natural parent(s) must be terminated. Parental rights can be involuntarily terminated under certain circumstances. Parental rights can also be voluntarily relinquished via consent to the adoption. Pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. Section 2711, a consent must be signed by the following individuals where applicable: (1) the child(ren) being adopted if over 12 years of age; (2) the spouse of the adopting parent if that spouse is not also a petitioner; (3) the natural parent(s) of any minor child(ren) being adopted; (4) the guardian of an incapacitated child up for adoption; and (5) the guardian of a minor child or persons having custody when the adoptee has no parent whose consent is required. There are several timing rules that must be adhered to. First, the consent cannot be signed by a natural mother within 72 hours, or three days, after the birth of a child. A consent can be signed by a natural father at any time after he has been notified the child is expected to be born or has been born. Executed consents become irrevocable after 30 days. They can be revoked on the basis of fraud or duress within 60 days.

As far as other technical requirements, the consent must include the date, full address of place of execution, and be witnessed by two adults whose name, address and relationship to the person executing the consent are required. The consent should be notarized and the notary’s complete address should be included. Another practical tip is to be careful who you select as a witness. The persons witnessing the consents may be called upon in court to testify as to the circumstances under which the consent was executed. The court must be satisfied that there was no fraud or duress and the person executing the consent was of sound mind. Having the prospective adoptive parents as witnesses can lead to an inference of duress and relatives of the natural parents can be viewed as biased so it is preferable to use impartial and credible witnesses with no interest whatsoever in the outcome of the adoption.

A streamlined adoption process is available depending on the relationship of the prospective adoptive parents and the adoptee. Specifically, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and step-parents qualify as a kinship adoption. A home study is not required in a kinship adoption, however background checks must still be completed as it relates to the adopting parent(s). There are three background checks required: (1) Child Abuse History Clearance; (2) PA State Police Criminal Record Check; and (3) FBI Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare.

If the natural parents are consenting to the adoption, their consents can be attached to the Petition for Adoption such that two separate petitions are not required. Pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. Section 2711, a consent must be signed by the following individuals where applicable: (1) the child(ren) being adopted if over 12 years of age; (2) the spouse of the adopting parent if that spouse is not also a petitioner; (3) the natural parent(s) of any minor child(ren) being adopted; (4) the guardian of an incapacitated child up for adoption; and (5) the guardian of a minor child or persons having custody when the adoptee has no parent whose consent is required. The consent cannot be signed by a natural mother within 72 hours, or three days, after the birth of a child. A consent can be signed by a natural father at any time after he has been notified the child is expected to be born or has been born. Executed consents become irrevocable after 30 days. The can be revoked on the basis of fraud or duress within 60 days. Without either proper consent or termination of parental rights, a kinship adoption cannot proceed.

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