Adoption

Did you know that anyone can be adopted, regardless of age?

If a child is a minor, the natural parents' rights must be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily before the child can be adopted by another person or persons. Parental rights can be involuntarily terminated when there is clear and convincing evidence that the natural parents have abandoned or neglected the child.

One a child is adopted, the adoptive parent has all of the rights and responsibilities of a natural parent. Just the same, the adopted child acquires all of the rights and responsibilities of a natural child of the adoptive parent.

Regarding a Petition for Adoption and the Parties who may proceed in an adoption, below is an abbreviated and very summarized version of part of what the Pennsylvania Pa.R.C.P. and/or Pa.C.S.A. provides.

(Please note that this content may not be continuously updated, and thus may not contain the most recent updates and/or revisions of the Pennsylvania laws and supplemental information. This information is provided for overview and information purposes, and is not meant to be legal advice. It is always best to consult with an experienced family law attorney, who utilizes much more than the following information, including caselaw, statutory law, and other resources to provide legal advice.):

§ 2711. Consents necessary to adoption.

(a) General Rule.--Except as otherwise provided in this part, consent to an adoption shall be required of the following:

  • (1) The adoptee, if over 12 years of age. 
  • (2) The spouse of the adopting parent, unless they join in the adoption petition. 
  • (3) The parents or surviving parent of an adoptee who has not reached the age of 18 years. 
  • (4) The guardian of an incapacitated adoptee. 
  • (5) The guardian of the person of an adoptee under the age of 18 years, if any there be, or of the person or persons having the custody of the adoptee, if any such person can be found, whenever the adoptee has no parent whose consent is required.

(b) Husband of natural mother.--The consent of the husband of the mother shall not be necessary if, after notice to the husband, it is proved to the satisfaction of the court by evidence, including testimony of the natural mother, that the husband of the natural mother is not the natural father of the child. Absent such proof, the consent of a former husband of the natural mother shall be required if he was the husband of the natural mother at any time within one year prior to the birth of the adoptee.

(c) Validity of consent.--No consent shall be valid if it was executed prior to or within 72 hours after the birth of the child. A putative father may execute a consent at any time after receiving notice of the expected or actual birth of the child. Any consent given outside this Commonwealth shall be valid for purposes of this section if it was given in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction where it was executed. A consent to an adoption may only be revoked as set forth in this subsection. The revocation of a consent shall be in writing and shall be served upon the agency or adult to whom the child was relinquished. The following apply:

(1) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (3):

(i) For a consent to an adoption executed by a birth father or a putative father, the consent is irrevocable more than 30 days after the birth of the child or the execution of the consent, whichever occurs later.

(ii) For a consent to an adoption executed by a birth mother, the consent is irrevocable more than 30 days after the execution of the consent.

(2) An individual may not waive the revocation period under paragraph (1).

(3) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), the following apply:

(i) An individual who executed a consent to an adoption may challenge the validity of the consent only by filing a petition alleging fraud or duress within the earlier of the following time frames:

(A) Sixty days after the birth of the child or the execution of the consent, whichever occurs later.

(B) Thirty days after the entry of the adoption decree.

(ii) A consent to an adoption may be invalidated only if the alleged fraud or duress under subparagraph (i) is proven by:

(A) a preponderance of the evidence in the case of consent by a person 21 years of age or younger; or

(B) clear and convincing evidence in all other cases.

(d) Contents of consent.--

(1) The consent of a parent of an adoptee under 18 years of age shall set forth the name, age and marital status of the parent, the relationship of the consenter to the child, the name of the other parent or parents of the child and the following:

I hereby voluntarily and unconditionally consent to the adoption of the above named child.

I understand that by signing this consent I indicate my intent to permanently give up all rights to this child.

I understand such child will be placed for adoption.

I understand I may revoke this consent to permanently give up all rights to this child by placing the revocation in writing and serving it upon the agency or adult to whom the child was relinquished.

If I am the birth father or putative father of the child, I understand that this consent to an adoption is irrevocable unless I revoke it within 30 days after either the birth of the child or my execution of the consent, whichever occurs later, by delivering a written revocation to (insert the name and address of the agency coordinating the adoption) or (insert the name and address of an attorney who represents the individual relinquishing parental rights or prospective adoptive parent of the child) or (insert the court of the county in which the voluntary relinquishment form was or will be filed).

If I am the birth mother of the child, I understand that this consent to an adoption is irrevocable unless I revoke it within 30 days after executing it by delivering a written revocation to (insert the name and address of the agency coordinating the adoption) or (insert the name and address of an attorney who represents the individual relinquishing parental rights or prospective adoptive parent of the child) or (insert the court of the county in which the voluntary relinquishment form was or will be filed).

I have read and understand the above and I am signing it as a free and voluntary act.

(2) The consent shall include the date and place of its execution and names and addresses and signatures of at least two persons who witnessed its execution and their relationship to the consenter.

§ 2712. Consents not naming adopting parents.

A consent to a proposed adoption meeting all the requirements of this part but which does not name or otherwise identify the adopting parent or parents shall be valid if it contains a statement that it is voluntarily executed without disclosure of the name or other identification of the adopting parent or parents.

§ 2713. When other consents not required.

The court, in its discretion, may dispense with consents other than that of the adoptee to a petition for adoption when:

  • (1) the adoptee is over 18 years of age; or 
  • (2) the adoptee is under 18 years of age and has no parent living whose consent is required.

§ 2714. When consent of parent not required.

Consent of a parent to adoption shall not be required if a decree of termination with regard to such parent has been entered. When parental rights have not previously been terminated, the court may find that consent of a parent of the adoptee is not required if, after notice and hearing as prescribed in section 2513 (relating to hearing), the court finds that grounds exist for involuntary termination under section 2511 (relating to grounds for involuntary termination).

§ 2721. Notice of hearing.

The court shall fix a time and place for hearing. Notice of the hearing shall be given to all persons whose consents are required and to such other persons as the court shall direct. Notice to the parent or parents of the adoptee, if required, may be given by the intermediary or someone acting on his behalf. Notice shall be by personal service or by registered mail to the last known address of the person to be notified or in such other manner as the court shall direct.

§ 2722. Place of hearing.

The hearing shall be private or in open court as the court deems appropriate.

§ 2723. Attendance at hearing.

The adopting parent or parents and the adoptee must appear at and, if required, testify at the hearing under oath unless the court determines their presence is unnecessary. In addition, the court may require the appearance and testimony of all persons whose consents are required by this part and representatives of agencies or individuals who have acted as an intermediary if their appearance or testimony would be necessary or helpful to the court.

§ 2724. Testimony and investigation.

(a) Testimony.--The court shall hear testimony in support of the petition and such additional testimony as it deems necessary to inform it as to the desirability of the proposed adoption. It shall require a disclosure of all moneys and consideration paid or to be paid to any person or institution in connection with the adoption.

(b) Investigation.--The court may request that an investigation be made by a person or public agency or, with its consent, a voluntary agency, specifically designated by the court to verify the statements of the petition and such other facts that will give the court full knowledge of the desirability of the proposed adoption, or the court may rely in whole or in part upon a report earlier made under section 2535 (relating to investigation). In any case, the age, sex, health, social and economic status or racial, ethnic or religious background of the child or adopting parents shall not preclude an adoption but the court shall decide its desirability on the basis of the physical, mental and emotional needs and welfare of the child.

(c) Payment of investigation costs.--The court may establish a procedure for the payment of investigation costs by the petitioners or by such other persons as the court may direct.

§ 2725. Religious belief.

The intermediary may honor the preference of the natural parents as to the religious faith in which the adoptive parents intend to rear the adopted child. No person shall be denied the benefits of this part because of a religious belief in the use of spiritual means or prayer for healing.

Regarding Decrees:

§ 2901. Time of entry of decree of adoption.

Unless the court for cause shown determines otherwise, no decree of adoption shall be entered unless the natural parent or parents' rights have been terminated, the investigation required be section 2535 (relating to investigation) has been completed, the report of the intermediary has been filed pursuant to section 2533 (relating to report of intermediary) and all other legal requirements have been met. If all legal requirements have been met, the court may enter a decree of adoption at any time.

§ 2902. Requirements and form of decree of adoption.

(a) General rule.-- If satisfied that the statements made in the petition are true, that the needs and welfare of the person proposed to be adopted will be promoted by the adoption and that all requirements of this part have been met, the court shall enter a decree so finding and directing that the person proposed to be adopted shall have all the rights of a child and heir of the adopting parent or parents and shall be subject to the duties of a child to him or them.

(b) Withdrawal or dismissal of petition.--In any case in which the petition is withdrawn or dismissed, the court shall enter an appropriate order in regard to the custody of the child.

§ 2903. Retention of parental status

Whenever a parent consents to the adoption of his child by his spouse, the parent-child relationship between him and his child shall remain whether or not he is one of the petitioners of the adoption proceeding.

§ 2904 Name of adoptee

If requested by the petitioners, the decree may provide that the adoptee shall assume the name of the adopting parent or parents and any given first or middle names that may be chosen.

§ 2906. Docket entries

Upon the filing of any decree under this part, the clerk shall enter on the docket an entry showing the date of the decree. Information identifying the natural parents shall not be entered on the docket.

§ 2907. Certificate of adoption

The clerk shall issue to the adopting parent or parents a certificate reciting that the court has granted the adoption. The certificate shall not disclose the name of any natural parent or the original name of the person adopted. The certificate shall be accepted in any legal proceedings in this Commonwealth as evidence of the fact that the adoption has been granted.

§ 2908. Foreign decree of adoption

(a) Registration.--When a minor is adopted by a resident of this Commonwealth and a final decree of adoption is made or entered in conformity with the laws of a foreign country, the adopting parent shall file a properly authenticated copy of the foreign decree of adoption, a copy of the child's visa and either the child's birth certificate or some form of birth identification with the clerk of the court in the county of residence of the parent. If the foreign decree of adoption is not in English, the adopting parent shall also file a certified English translation. If no birth certificate or birth identification can be obtained, the adopting parent shall include an affidavit stating the reason therefor.

(b) Foreign adoption registration form.--The court shall develop a foreign adoption registration form and instructions for its use. The adopting parent or parents shall sign the foreign adoption registration form indicating that they have read and understand the information provided.

(c) Contents of form.--

(1) The form shall include statements indicating that the foreign adoption may not be a full and final adoption if:

(i) Both parents, or just the sole parent if only one parent is adopting, were not present for the adoption hearing in the foreign country.

(ii) The foreign court did not enter a final adoption decree or its equivalent.

(iii) The child's visa is not the type that would afford the child full United States citizenship.

(2) The form shall notify the adopting parent or parents that an adoption decree may be obtained from the Commonwealth if the documents filed in subsection (a) are reviewed by the court and the court determines the foreign adoption was full and final.

(3) At the time of filing, a copy of the foreign decree of adoption and a certified English translation, if necessary, the child's visa and either the child's birth certificate or some form of birth identification shall be attached to the foreign registration form and submitted to the clerk of court.

(d) Foreign adoption review.--In cases where the court determines the foreign adoption was full and final, the court shall direct the clerk to enter upon the docket an entry showing the foreign court identification of the proceedings in that court and the date of the decree. The clerk shall issue to the parent a certificate of adoption as defined in section 2907 (relating to certificate of adoption). The clerk shall also send documentation to the Department of Health. No hearing shall be required prior to the issuance of the certificate of adoption, and the parent shall not be required to obtain counsel.

(e) Readoption.--The court shall develop a standard petition, a standard court order and instructions for their use for occasions when a child must be readopted to finalize the adoption. The clerk shall provide the adopting parent with the standardized information.

(f) Records.--All documents required in subsection (a) as well as any other accompanying documents shall be kept in the files of the court as a permanent record and shall be withheld from inspection except on order of court granted upon cause shown. Information identifying the birth parents of the adoptee shall not be required. The clerk may charge a filing fee in accordance with the court's regular fee schedule as approved by the president judge.

§ 2910 Penalty for unauthorized disclosure

Any officer or employee of the court, other than a judge thereof, the Department of Health, the Department of Public Welfare, or any agency who willfully discloses impounded or otherwise confidential information relating to an adoption, other than as expressly authorized and provided in this chapter, commits a misdemeanor of the third degree.

For legal help with your Pennsylvania adoption matter, please contact Allegheny County Family Lawyer and Pittsburgh adoption lawyer Bethany L. Notaro, Esquire.

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