ADOPTION IN PENNSYLVANIA FOR LGBTs AND UNMARRIED PARENTS
For those of you thinking about adopting, here is a brief overview of the specifics. In Pennsylvania a gay or lesbian couple may adopt a child who is not biologically or adoptively related to either partner. A gay or lesbian partner may also adopt a child who is the biological or adopted child of the other partner.
In 2002, our adoption law was interpreted by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to allow gay partner, second parent, adoptions. The Court found that it was “absurd to prohibit their adoptions merely because their children were either the biological or adopted children of one of the partners prior to the filing of the adoption petition.” The only body who can change the present state of the law is our legislature. Some in the Pennsylvania legislature have pushed for such a change, so be aware of where your votes go!
If there is a known biological or adoptive parent outside of the gay or lesbian relationship, that parent must give up their rights. Giving up their rights will amount to a complete break in that relationship. They will have no rights as to custody or visitation and no duty of support. If the person giving up their rights is willing to do so, the process is simple and requires a consent form. If the person giving up their parental rights is not willing to do so, their rights must be terminated. Termination of parental rights is accomplished by proving that the parent has shown a complete and ongoing unwillingness to care for the child. The specific requirements for such a determination are governed by statute.
An adoptive parent steps in the place of the biological or former adoptive parent. That is, they will have all of the rights of a natural parent, such as custody and visitation. They will also have all of the obligations as a natural parent, such as being responsible for the welfare of the child and supporting the child financially.
Gay or lesbian second parent adoptions should be treated the same as step-parent adoptions. However, some county judges require an investigation of the same sex adopting parent, which is normally not required for step-parent adoptions. This may be discriminatory. However, causing the judge some discontent, and the process of appealing such a requirement, may not be in the adopting parent’s best interest – emotionally or financially. The investigator, usually a court appointed agency, files a report for review by court. The investigation consists of an interview and home visit.
Please note: There is no statutory format for LGBT or Unmarried Adopting Parents. Even though the Adoption Act was recently amended, the Pennsylvania Legislature apparently does not want to have anything to say about these types of adoptions. The result is that there are no State wide forms, so every County can and does make their own rules. Even worse, the Judges within the Counties, also make their own rules.