STEP-PARENT ADOPTION AND TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS
Our Lancaster and Central PA adoption attorney has helped many families with their adoption. Completing an adoption can be one of the happiest days in a families life, so it is important to have a caring and competent attorney on your side through the legal maze of an adoption process.
I. Termination of parental rights
We frequently get calls from potential clients asking if they can have their parental rights terminated or on the other hand, we get calls from prospective clients asking if we can terminate the other parent’s rights. A parents’ rights cannot be terminated unless it is done as part of an adoption, such as through a step-parent adoption or through a child dependency proceeding, ie: a children and youth proceeding.
If a party does plan to go through with an adoption, the first step is to have the other biological parent’s rights terminated. This can be done one of two ways. First, it can be done with the consent of the parent. The second way is to terminate that parent’s rights involuntarily, which requires an evidentiary hearing and the statutory requirements must be proven. If the party consents, he/she has thirty days to revoke that consent.
II. Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights.
If a parent refuses to consent to the termination of his/her rights, an involuntary termination petition can be filed. To be successful on this petition, one of the following grounds must be met:
1. Abandonment – ie: parent not involved and not supporting the child for a period of six months or longer.
2. Chronic abuse or neglect
3. Abuse or neglect of other children in the household
4. Long-term mental illness of the parent or deficiency with the parent
5. Long-term alcohol or drug induced incapacity of the parent
6. Failure to support or maintain contact with the child
7. Involuntary termination of the parents rights to another child.
One of the above criteria will need to be proven by clear and convincing evidence to have a parent’s rights involuntarily terminated.
Once grounds for the termination of parental rights are established, the next step is to proceed with the adoption itself. This will require the filing of an adoption petition. Prior to the date of the adoption hearing, a home-study will be conducted. Once the home-study is completed, the final step is to have a hearing. Generally, the hearings are relatively brief and the adoptive parents will just need to answer a few questions to confirm that they desire to adopt and will answer some questions to establish that it would be in the best interest of the child or children to be adopted.
IV. Effect of Adoption
Once the adoption is completed, the judge will sign an adoption decree and the original birth certificate will be sent back to the department of vital statistics. The department of vital statistics will correct the birth certificate to add the name of the adoptive parent, which will replace the name of the biological parent that was previously listed on the birth certificate. If it is a step-father that is adopting, the child’s name can also be changed once the adoption is completed.
The adoptive parent will have all of the rights, responsibilities and obligations that a biological parent has. For example, if a step-father adopts and he later divorces the biological mother, he would have the right to seek primary custody or visitation of the child and he would also have the obligation to pay child support if the biological mother retained custody of the child. As another example, if the adoptive parent would die, his/her estate would treat the adoptive child the same way a biological child is treated.
If you are considering an adoption, feel free to contact us for a free and confidential phone consultation. Our Lancaster and Central PA Adoption Attorney would be more than happy to assist you, your family, and your child/children through this exciting life event!