Step-Parent Adoption

When a primary custodial parent wants their spouse to adopt a child from a prior relationship, a petition must be filed in Orphans’ Court. Courts generally will not allow a non-custodial parent to voluntarily terminate parental rights in the absence of an adoption. In many adoptions, it is common to obtain the written consent of the relinquishing parent. Otherwise, it would be necessary to file a petition to involuntarily terminate that parent’s rights contemporaneously with an adoption petition. Two separate hearings may be needed if a parent’s rights are involuntarily terminated, whereas with a signed consent form, only one short hearing is needed.

Attorney Bernstein will explain the entire step-parent adoption process, the kind of evidence needed to terminate a parent’s rights and the modest cost of the adoption process.

Typically, the process begins with a request by the attorney for the relinquishing parent to sign the consent form. This form must be signed freely and voluntarily without any promises made to induce one’s consent. An important outcome of the entry of a final order is that the obligation to pay future child support ends, which can be of concern to all parties. After obtaining consent, the adoption petition is filed with the Court, and a hearing is soon scheduled. A child 12 years or older also must sign a consent form. Often, a new name for the child is desired. A new birth certificate will be issued upon the entry of an order of adoption reflective of both parents as birth parents.

The law also provides for an “open” adoption, where future contact would be allowed if all parties agree; otherwise, the effect of a standard adoption is to disallow the relinquishing parent any future rights of contact or as a parent. The final hearing is often a joyous occasion when a Judge allows picture-taking with extended family members, including siblings and grandparents.