Stepchild adoption is one of the most common types of adoption in the United States. It can be a wonderful experience for the parent and child to know that there is that level of love and affection in their family. However, adoption of a stepchild in Pennsylvania is a process that can be complicated by various family law issues. Here are the five crucial steps to Pennsylvania stepchild adoption that an experienced family law attorney in your area can help with if you would like to adopt the stepchild in your home.

Getting Parental Consent

The documentation and paperwork in an adoption case is paramount, and this begins with receiving consent from both biological parents to move forward with the adoption process. A child cannot have three legal parents, so the noncustodial parent must agree to give up their parental rights to the child. Parental consent from the noncustodial parent includes a termination of their parental rights, which can be a tricky process if not handled properly. An attorney can ensure that this step is handled correctly so the adoption can continue.

Submit a Stepparent Adoption Petition

Once the noncustodial parent’s parental rights have been terminated, a petition is filed with the court for the stepchild adoption. In Pennsylvania, a stepparent is not required to submit to a home study or post-placement visits during or after the petition process. This petition involves various forms, filing, and documentation that your lawyer will ensure is properly completed.

Attend Adoption Court Hearings

The next step in the stepchild adoption process is attending any preliminary adoption court hearings on the case. Preliminary hearings may be scheduled by the family law judge to clarify or confirm details in the adoption petition, get consent of the stepchild if over the age of 12, and any other details that need to be handled prior to the finalization hearing.

Finalize the Adoption

In final step in the stepchild adoption court process is the finalization hearing. If there were no preliminary hearings, the judge may ask that you confirm certain details about your petition as well as ask consent from the child if he or she is old enough. If everything goes through, the court will issue an adoption certificate for you and your stepchild that formalizes you as the child’s legal parent. Typically, the entire court process for stepchild adoption takes between 60 and 90 days in Pennsylvania.

Apply for a New Birth Certificate

One last crucial step after the finalization of the adoption in family court is applying for a new birth certificate for the child. This application will change the name of the stepchild’s parent from the noncustodial parent to you and, if decided, legally change the last name of the child, as well.

Call or Contact a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney Today

If you have concerns about the adopting a stepchild, an experienced divorce attorney in your area may be able to help. Call or contact the Martin Law Firm today to discuss your legal options.