Philadelphia Adoption Attorneys
Handling Stepparent and Same-Sex Adoptions in Montgomery County
Adopting your spouse’s or partner’s child can be one of the most fulfilling actions you will take in uniting your family. Similarly, same-sex couples who would like to begin a family together can build a family they desire through Pennsylvania’s legal adoption process. At the Law Office of Smith & Horwitz, our Philadelphia adoption lawyers handle stepparent adoptions and same-sex adoptions for couples throughout the Montgomery County area. We have more than 35 years of family law experience that we can use to help you efficiently and effectively guide you through the legal adoption process. Our attorneys understand all the steps that must be taken to properly prepare and file all necessary adoption paperwork. From compiling documentation like birth certificates to representing clients in adoption hearings, we are here to provide you with the comprehensive, dedicated representation you need at this exciting time in your life.
Basic Adoption Laws
Pennsylvania is one of the least restrictive states on who may adopt. Pennsylvania adoption is generally open and does not prohibit any adult from adopting. State adoption laws allow any child and certain adults to be adopted, and any unmarried adult or married couple may adopt. However, note that the adoption of children age 12 and older requires the child’s consent.
Any same-sex individual or couple may adopt as well, without legal hurdles. In any case, if a married couple wants to adopt, both spouses will need to petition for adoption, unless one spouse gives the other consent to adopt alone. Generally, unmarried couples cannot adopt in Pennsylvania, but there may be exceptions.
There are four different options for adopting a child:
- State or Public Agency Adoption – Adopting a child who is in foster care from the public child welfare system; children tend to be older and have been removed from their birthparents due to abuse or neglect; required series of classes on how to successfully parent.
- Agency Open Adoption – open adoption through an adoption agency.
- Open Independent Adoption – prospective parents find birth parents on their own and complete that adoption through an attorney.
- International adoption – adopt from another country through an agency or independently.
Stepparent Adoption Process
When a stepparent seeks to adopt a child, the parental rights of the parent who is not the adopter’s spouse must first be terminated. This can happen either through consent from the original parent whose parental rights will be terminated (voluntary termination) or by a court’s decision to involuntarily terminate the original parent’s parental rights (involuntary termination).
A parent can voluntarily terminate their rights with respect to a child, and many voluntary terminations occur when the original parent is not involved in the child’s life. Note that a voluntary termination of parental rights also effectively terminates any support obligation that the terminating parent may face. An involuntary termination of parental rights, on the other hand, occurs after requesting petition to the court. There are a number of factors the court must consider before involuntary termination can take place, primarily based on how the termination will affect the child. Keep in mind that while most stepparent or same-sex adoptions are uncontested adoptions, it is possible that a contested adoption can arise in situations involving a parent who does not want to terminate their parental rights. It is critical to have an experienced adoption attorney on your side to tackle this hurdle.
In any case, after a parent’s parental rights have been terminated, a stepparent can legally adopt the child with consent of their spouse and consent of the child (if over the age of 12). Be aware that the adopting stepparent will be required to submit any record of a criminal history and may also be subject to a home-visit from the county prior to the court’s approval of the adoption.
Contact a Philadelphia Adoption Attorney
If you are a stepparent or a same-sex couple and would like to start the adoption process with a caring, dedicated, and experienced family law attorney, work with one of our lawyers at the Law Office of Smith & Horwitz. We are equipped with the professional experience and knowledge to champion your adoption case in Philadelphia.