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Stephen Beroes, Elizabeth A. Beroes, Julie Elizabeth Beroes, and Shanice Williams
Stephen Beroes, Elizabeth A. Beroes, Julie Elizabeth Beroes, Shanice Williams

Stepparent adoption in Pennsylvania

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Adoption

When a couple breaks up after having a child together, one of the child’s parents may choose to remarry and their new spouse will become the child’s stepparent. If that stepparent wants to adopt the child and become the child’s legal parent, they must go through the adoption process. This may last several months.

How does the adoption process work for stepparents?

Under Pennsylvania family law, a stepparent can only adopt a child after parent’s parental rights are terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily. This is because a child cannot legally have more than two parents.

  • Voluntary termination of parental rights requires the parents to willingly give up their parental rights by filing paperwork with the court. A parent may choose this path if they feel that they are unable to properly care for the child and that another adult would be better suited to raise the child. The parent may have to attend a hearing so that the court can determine whether relinquishing their parental rights is best for the child.
  • Involuntary termination of parental rights typically only occurs in certain situations (e.g., the child’s parent has abused or neglected the child in the past or failed to fulfill their parental duties in recent months).

Once the parental rights have been terminated, the adoption process can begin. The stepparent can file a petition for adoption with the court to adopt the child. They must have have the consent of their spouse and, if the child is over 12, of the child.  The court may hold preliminary hearings to review the petition, and then set a hearing to finalize the adoption. Once the adoption is finalized, you may change the child’s last name, if desired, and acquire a new birth certificate.

Stepparents may have a difficult time adopting a child, particularly if the child’s parent does not want to terminate their parental rights. However, it is necessary if the stepparent wants any legal right to act as a parent and make decisions on behalf of the child.