How Does Stepparent Adoption Work in Pennsylvania?
November 9, 2022

Stepparent adoption is the most common type of adoption in the United States. It can be an important step in building a new family with your spouse and children.

While stepparent adoption in PA can be easier than other forms of adoption, there are still a few points that can be difficult. Hiring a good family law attorney can help clarify your obligations and make the process run smoothly.

Learn more about how to adopt a stepchild in PA.

Termination of Parental Rights

Under Pennsylvania law, a child cannot have three parents. So, the parental rights of one of the child’s other parents must be terminated before the stepparent can file for adoption.


If the other parent agrees to terminate their parental rights voluntarily, they will have to file paperwork with Orphans’ Court. They may also have to attend a voluntary relinquishment hearing.


There are a few circumstances where parental rights can be involuntarily removed from the other parent. If the parent has a history of abusing or neglecting a child and the behavior cannot or will not be remedied by the parent or the parent has not fulfilled their parental duties for a six-month period (four months in the case of a newborn), parental rights may be terminated. Other circumstances include the parent being convicted of certain crimes.

Involuntary termination of parental rights can be a lengthy process. A qualified family lawyer can help you present the best case possible.

Filing a Stepparent Adoption in PA Petition

After the court has formally terminated parental rights, the stepparent will need to submit a petition to the court stating that they would like to adopt the child. If the child’s other parent is deceased, the adoption process starts from this step.

A petition will include certain kinds of documentation to show that the stepparent will be a fit guardian. Your lawyer will help you prepare these documents.

However, unlike with other types of adoption, stepparent adoption in PA does not involve home studies or post-placement visits.

Court Hearings

A court hearing will be held to finalize the adoption. If the child is over 12, they will need to appear at the hearing and provide testimony that he or she consents to the adoption.

The judge may also wish to clarify some details in your case before the adoption is finalized. A good family lawyer will help you prepare and make sure there are no surprises.

Finalizing The Paperwork

The full stepparent adoption process in Pennsylvania can take several months in most cases. You then receive a court-issued certificate of adoption and can even request a new birth certificate for the child, which shows their new legal parents.

Stepparent adoption in PA allows you to be fully present in the life of your child, including in terms of medical and legal issues. The experienced family law attorneys at Daley Zucker can help you make the process easier and less disruptive. If you need help with adopting a stepchild in PA, contact us today.

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