What Does the Adoption Legal Process Look Like?

The adoption legal process will depend on the state(s) involved with the adoption, as each state has its own adoption laws.

The adoption legal process is usually two steps:

First: Termination of Birth Parents’ parental rights

Second: Finalization of the adoption by the Adoptive Parents

First: TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

In Pennsylvania, birthparents rights can be terminated in one of three ways:

  1. Confirmation of Consent(s) to Adoption
    • Birthparents usually do not have to go to court
  2. Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
    • There are several grounds under which Involuntary Relinquishments can be granted when a Birthparent does not consent to an adoption: rape, abandonment (4 months or 6 months depending on the facts), or inability to parent are a few examples.
  3. Voluntary Relinquishments
    • There are alternate proceedings when a birthparent voluntarily relinquishes parental rights.

Following is a summary of the three different ways to proceed with termination of parental rights in Pennsylvania:

  1. Confirmation of Consent to Adoption
    • After 72 hours expires from birth, Birthparents sign Consents to Adoption: Birthfather may sign Consent prior to birth.
    • 30 day waiting period from the date the Consent is signed. Birthparent must notify designated persons during 30 day period if they wish to revoke Consent.
    • Once 30 days expire, Birthparent may not revoke Consent. There are special provision in the law for cases of fraud or duress. Parental rights are not yet terminated.
    • A Petition to Confirm Consent(s) will be filed with the court. Hearing date is scheduled for approximately 6 to 8 weeks later.
    • Notice of hearing must be served on Birthparents at least 10 days before hearing by certified mail or personal delivery

    Court Hearing

    • Birthparent need not attend, but the Intermediary does (If no intermediary, then Adoptive Parents attend).
    • Adoptive Family notified of legal termination. Filing of Petition for Adoption can go forward when Birthparents’ parental rights have been terminated and agency (if applicable) completes post- placement reports
  2. Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
    • There are several grounds to terminate a Birthparent’s parental rights when he/she will not consent to the adoption, or is unknown, or cannot be located. These include a six month period of “abandonment”, a four month period of “abandonment” for a newborn, rape, and inability to parent which cannot/will not be remedied.
    • A Petition for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights is filed with the Court. Hearing is scheduled for approximately 6 to 10 weeks later.
    • Notice of hearing must be served on Birthparent at least 10 days before hearing either by certified mail or personal delivery. In cases of unknown birthparent or birthparents that cannot be located, legal advertisements are placed in newspapers

    Court Hearing

    • Adoptive Family notified of legal termination. Filing of Petition for Adoption can go forward when both Birthparents’ parental rights have been terminated and agency completes post-placement reports
  3. Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights
    • Prior to 72 hours after baby’s birth, the Birthparent may sign a voluntary relinquishment as long as an “Intent to Place Child for Adoption” form is signed accompanying the relinquishment papers. After 72 hours from the birth, the birthparents need only sign the voluntary relinquishment. In private placement, the Petition for Voluntary Relinquishment can be filed with the court after 72 hours expires from the time of birth.
    • A Petition for Voluntary Relinquishment is filed with the court. Hearing date is scheduled for approximately 6 to 8 weeks later.
    • Notice of hearing must be served on Birthparents at least 10 days before hearing either by certified mail or personal delivery.

    Court Hearing

    • Birthparent must attend.
    • Adoptive Family notified of legal termination. Filing of Petition for Adoption can go forward when both Birthparent’s parental rights have been terminated and agency (if applicable) completes post-placement reports

Second: FINALIZATION OF THE ADOPTION

Once the birthparents’ parental rights have been terminated, then the Adoptive Parents will be able to proceed to a final adoption hearing.

This will include the filing of a Petition For Adoption with the court and scheduling a court hearing, at which the Adoptive Parents and child(ren) that is (are) being adopted will appear.

After the adoption is granted, a Certificate of Adoption will be issued and a new birth certificate(s) will be obtained, showing the Adoptive Parents’ names as the parents and the child(ren)’s new name as chosen by the Adoptive Parents.

Once the adoptive parents have the Certificate of Adoption and new birth certificate(s), they can then obtain a social security number(s) for the child(ren) and a passport for the child(ren).