Adoption

Adoption is a selfless act that should be honored and encouraged. At Trinity Law we do everything that we can to make sure that the process moves smoothly.Adoption is a document intensive area of law. The success of the adoption lies in the filing of the right documents, in the right order at the right time. We work with the prospective adoptive parents to help them meet the requirements set by the court. Our office has the experience to get you through the process and back to enjoying your new family as quickly as possible.

Some adoptions can run into difficulty that can cause delay in either the scheduling of a hearing or the finalization of the adoption. Some of these situations can be inability to find the biological parents, opposition of the biological parents to termination of their parental rights, or problems retrieving documents. Our office has handled all of these situations with the compassion, understanding and skill necessary to bring it to successful conclusion.

We handle adoption cases in multiple counties throughout south-central Pennsylvania.

Common Terms:

  • Birth mother, natural mother, biological mother:
    • These terms are used interchangeably and the definition is self evident.
  • Birth father, natural father, putative father, or presumptive father:
    • “Birth father and natural father” are used interchangeably and the definition is self evident.
    • “Putative father” is a term generally used to identify a man who the birth mother has identified to be the father of her child, but he has not filed a claim or acknowledgement of paternity with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.
    • “Presumptive father” if the birth mother is married at the time of the birth, or within one year of the birth of the child, her husband is presumed to be the father of the child.
  • “Intermediary” is the person or agency acting between the parent or parents of the child and the proposed adoptive parents in arranging an adoption placement.

Termination of Parental Rights Filings
Pennsylvania law provides different methods for terminating parental rights of a birth parent and each county has local rules to follow, as well.

  • Consent: there is a Consent form that a birth parent may sign indicating his or her consent to have the child placed for adoption. A birth father can sign the Consent at any time, even before the birth of the child, but a birth mother may not execute the Consent until at least 72 hours following birth. The Consent should include language memorializing post adoption communication agreement or lack there of.
    • A birth mother has 30 days from when she signs the consent to revoke it, and a birth father has 30 days from the birth of the child, if he signs before birth, or thirty days from when he signs the consent after birth, to revoke. After the 30-day period, the consent is irrevocable.
    • Birth parents must receive a copy of their executed consents and the Consent specifies that a revocation must be in writing and provided to either the Intermediary, the Court, or the attorney handling the matter. Even after 30-day revocation period is up, parental rights are not yet terminated. The intermediary or adoptive parents need to file a Petition to Confirm the Consents and Terminate Parental Rights, the Court will schedule a hearing, and the birth parents must receive notice of the hearing at least 10 days in advance.
  • Involuntary termination of parental rights. This filing is used when a birth mother signs a Consent but a birth father does not, or vice versa. Sometimes father does not consent simply because he refuses to, or because he cannot be found, or because he ignores attempts to contact him. Regardless, birth father’s rights can be terminated involuntarily.
    • Putative father scenario: If a person identified by the birth mother as the father will not sign a Consent, and has not filed a claim or acknowledgement of paternity, his rights may be terminated involuntarily at the hearing to confirm the consent of the birth mother. The putative father must receive notice of the hearing, and if he fails to appear at the hearing or to provide written objection, his parental rights will be terminated.
      • Other scenarios for involuntary termination:
        • When the child is a product of rape;
        • When there is a presumptive father with an Affidavit from the birth mother explaining that her husband or ex-husband is not the father;
        • When there are multiple possible putative fathers, each one of their rights must be terminated.
        • When whereabouts of birth father unknown, you can provide notice of the hearing by publication, usually by leave of court.

Termination Hearing
Birth parents must receive at least 10 days written notice of hearing. There are very stringent rules to follow for the wording and service of this vital step in the process. The Petitioners must testify at the hearing but birth parents do not need to attend the hearing.

Adoption Process

  • Report of Intention to Adopt should be filed on behalf of the adoptive parents within 30 days of placement. The Report of Intention to Adopt provides the Court with information about the adoptive parents. The home study for the adoptive parents must be attached to the Report. The Report of Intention to Adopt also must include a statement whereby the adoptive parents acknowledge that the birth parents have 30 days from when they signed their consents to revoke the consents.
    • If a home study is not completed at the time of placement, a letter from the agency performing the home study must be attached, informing the Court that a home study has been initiated. The home study can be filed upon completion.
    • Criminal, child abuse and FBI clearances should be attached as well.
    • Report of Intent to Adopt is not required in step-parent adoptions and there are other exceptions when family members are adopting.
    • Report of Intermediary is filed after parental rights are terminated and includes information regarding the termination of parental rights and the fees paid by the adoptive parents in connection with the adoption.
      • Pennsylvania law is restrictive as to the expenses that adoptive parents are allowed to pay. These fees and expenses are limited to: fees paid to a licensed adoption agency, attorneys’ fees, medical expenses incurred by the birth mother in connection with her pregnancy and childbirth; and medical expenses for the child.
      • Report of Intermediary must be filed within six months of placement of the child with adoptive parents, unless parental rights have not been terminated within that time.

Petition for Adoption
The adoption petition may be filed before or after parental rights of the birth parents have been terminated. 1. Petitioners are the adoptive parents, and they are asking the Court to enter a Final Adoption Decree.
The Petition contains information pertaining to the adoptive parents and includes the new name of the child.
Adoption hearing
Adoptive parents and child must attend. The court will hear testimony from adoptive parents and the Intermediary. If the child is age 12 or older, the child must testify and consent to the adoption. The child will need to sign a Consent, as well.
After the hearing, the Court will issue a Final Adoption Decree. Then, a new birth certificate can be issued that will list the adoptive parents as the child’s parents and reflect the new adoptive name.

Act 101 Notice
It is important for all parties to be provided with an Act 101 Notice. Essentially, all parties need to know that there is an important option that may be available to them under Pennsylvania law. Act 101 of 2010 allows for an enforceable voluntary agreement for continuing contact or communication following an adoption between an adoptive parent, a child, a birth parent and/or a birth relative of the child, if all parties agree and the voluntary agreement is approved by the court. The agreement must be signed and approved by the court to be legally binding.
A birth relative is defined only as a parent, grandparent, stepparent, sibling, uncle or aunt of the child’s birth family, whether the relationship is by blood, marriage or adoption.

This voluntary agreement may allow you to have continuing contact or communication, including but not limited to:

  • Letters and/or emails
  • Photos and/or videos
  • Telephone calls and/or text messages; or
  • Supervised or unsupervised visits