When a step-parent in Pennsylvania decides to adopt the child of his or her spouse, there are specific procedures to follow. By such an adoption, a step-parent will become a legal parent of the child and must accept full responsibility for him or her. Once the adoption is legal, the non-custodial parent loses all legal rights to the child and will no longer have child custody or any other responsibilities toward the child.
Adoption laws vary from state to state, and some parents who consider adopting a spouse's child from a previous marriage choose to utilize the services of an experienced adoption attorney to ensure the legalities of each step. A lawyer will also explain the requirements and inform the parent of what can be expected. Before an adoption can happen, consent is required as per state laws. The consent of the birth parents is typically necessary, and the laws of Pennsylvania regarding objections from a non-custodial parent will determine how such an issue will be handled. Depending on the age and maturity of the child to be adopted, the court may also want the child's consent to the adoption.
According to Pennsylvania laws, an adopting parent must complete an adoption home study that will only be valid for one year. The purpose of the home study is for the consultant to determine the suitability of the household and to meet each member to assess how the adopted child will be accepted by all family members. Background checks will also be conducted during this time. Once the attorney has submitted all the required forms and documentation, it may be some time before the court will request a hearing. At this time, the judge will have conversations with both parents, and if the child is old enough or mature enough, he or she will also be questioned.
If all requirements are met according to Pennsylvania laws, and the judge is satisfied that the best interest of the child is served, a date for finalization of the adoption will be set. At this hearing, the legal adoption certificates will be issued. The final step to be taken before the new parent and adopted child can continue with their lives as a family is to submit an application for an amended birth certificate.
Source: adoption.about.com, "Learn About Step Parent Adoptions", Carrie Craft, Accessed on Feb. 6, 2015