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You Don’t Have to be Related to Adopt in Pennsylvania
Adoption by third parties represents the traditional view of adoption, where persons unrelated to the child are the adoptive parents. In order to adopt a child under these circumstances, the adoptive parent or parents will have to undergo an extensive background check to make sure that they are suitable. A home study will be required as part of the adoption process to assure the system that the adoptive home is safe. In addition, there is likely to be some ongoing monitoring to make sure the family and child are able to bond well. In this kind of adoption, both biological parents must be give up their parental rights for the adoption to occur.
In the past, most unrelated adoptions were what is known as closed. This meant that the biological parents could not have any contact with the child or the adoptive parents. In fact, the biological parents rarely knew where the child went. In addition, the biological parents were precluded from seeking to communicate with the child until they were 18, even if they were able to ascertain where the child was located. Now, many of these adoptions are open. This means that the biological parents know who adopted their child and there may even be continued communication between the biological parents and the adoptive parents, depending on what is agreed upon and what is best for the child. These relationships are generally controlled by a written contract.
Another common form of adoption is the step-parent adoption. When one parent re-marries, the new spouse may want to adopt their children. In order for such an adoption to occur, the other parent must be willing, or required by a court of law, to give up their rights to the children. The important thing about step-parent adoptions is that they do not require all of the steps of a traditional adoption. No home visit or extensive background check is required.
Prior to the legalization of same-gender marriage throughout the United States, same sex partners often had difficulties forming legal relationships between the non-biological parent and the child. As a result, it was common, if such a relationship broke up, for the non-biological parent to have no rights to the child, regardless of how long they had been involved in the child’s life. This changed in Pennsylvania when the Supreme Court ruled on the issue of second-parent adoption. Second-parent adoption allows the unmarried non-biological parent partner of the biological parent to adopt a child assuming that the other biological parent gives up their rights to the child. Now, same-sex partners who are married fall under step-parent adoption, but unmarried individuals, regardless of whether they are same or opposite gender, may obtain legal rights under second-parent adoption principles. Second-parent adoptions are much like step-parent adoptions.
It has become common for grandparents to raise their grandchildren. As such, if the biological parents are not fit or choose to give up their rights, it is possible for grandparents to adopt, under the appropriate circumstances. In the past, many grandparents chose to raise their grandchildren without any formal arrangement. But with the increasing drug problem and the related increase of grandparents raising their grandchildren, many grandparents are seeking to either adopt their grandchildren, or at least obtain a formal custody arrangement. This way the grandparents are able to provide a secure home, withiout consern of disruption to the child’s life if the biological parent(s) decide they want the child back.
Biological Parental Rights
It is important to understand that biological parents have rights that cannot be taken away without cause. In some cases, the biological parents will choose to give up their rights. In other cases, the birth parents do not willingly give up their rights, rather, a court finds them unfit and the child is taken away. In cases when a child is taken away permanently, then that child may be adopted by a third party. The adoptive parent(s) may be related or unrelated depending on the specific circumstances of the situation.
One Parent Cannot Terminate the Other’s Rights
If one birth parent desires to allow their child to be adopted, they cannot simply do so without the consent of the other birth parent. If the other parent is a fit parent, a court will not take a child away so that a third party may adopt. This is the case whether the parent who desires to terminate their rights is the mother or the father. It does not matter to whom the biological parent desires to give the child. For example, here in Pennsylvania, a woman tried to give up her child to the maternal grandmonther without the father’s counsent. The father did not want to give up his child and so the court would not allow the adoption.
Fathers have equal rights to their children and a mother may not give a child up for adoption without the father’s consent, unless a court finds the father unfit. If the mother wishes to terminate her rights, she can relinquish custody to the father. She will then be required to provide appropriate child support to the father. The reverse is true as well. A biological father may not give a child up for adoption without the consent of the biological mother. If the father does not want custody, the mother can take custody and the father will be required to pay child support to the mother. In such a case, a second or step-parent adoption would alleviate the requirement that the biological parent who wants to terminate their rights pay child support.
For children under the age of 12, the child’s consent is not necessary for an adoption. However, if a child does not want to be adopted by a certain individual, a court will be concerned and want to know why. If a child is 12 or older, they must consent to the adoption.
Considering Adopting a Child? Contact Us For Assistance
If you want to expand your family by adoptiong a child, we have the experience to help. Whether a third-party, step-parent, second-parent, or grandparent adoption, we can walk you through the process and make certain that all legal requirements are met. Contact us today to find out how we can assist you with your Pennsylvania adoption.