Adopting a child is an extraordinary experience filled with joy and anticipation. Amidst the joy, the legal process of adoption can bring forth an abundance of paperwork, particularly in contested adoption cases. This comprehensive guide will shed light on what contested adoptions entail, the circumstances, and the crucial legal aspects involved.
What is a Contested Adoption?
A contested adoption occurs when the birth parent cannot be located or refuses to consent to terminate their parental rights. If the birth parent(s) do not agree with the adoption, there is a hearing to determine if their rights should be involuntarily terminated. In this situation, an attorney must be appointed to represent the interests of the adoptee(s). An attorney may also be appointed for the parent contesting the adoption. When presiding over a petition for involuntary termination, the court must first consider whether grounds for involuntary termination have been established. Grounds for termination include instances where a parent has failed to perform any parental duties for at least six months, where a parent has demonstrated incapacity, abuse or neglect, or the child has been removed from the care of the parent(s) by an agency and parents have not been able to successfully remedy the situation which led to removal.
Circumstances Giving Rise to Contested Adoptions
Contested adoptions can arise in various scenarios but most commonly occur when the birth parent cannot be located or fails to respond to adoption-related communications. Alternatively, a contested adoption may happen when the birth parent simply refuses to give consent for the termination of their parental rights.
Child’s Best Interest in Adoption
Once grounds for termination are established, the court then turns to the needs and welfare of the child(ren) involved. A major factor is the emotional bond between the parent and child and potential consequence of severing that bond. A parent’s representation of love and affection for a child without further corroboration, are not sufficient to prevent termination of their rights based on the best interests of the child. The role of the attorney appointed for the adoptee(s) is to elicit and relay the position of the children involved. The attorney may also weigh in as to whether the adoption proceeding would be in the child’s best interests and whether the benefit of adoption outweighs any harm from the termination. Other parties, such as social workers involved in the case, can also offer an opinion as to the welfare of the children and any possibility of irreparable harm in severing the parent-child relationship. If a final decree of termination is entered by the court, the case may proceed with adoption.
Contested versus Uncontested Adoptions
In Pennsylvania, adoptions can be either contested or uncontested. Uncontested adoptions occur when both birth parents consent, facilitating a smoother process. However, contested adoptions involve a more complex and contentious path, requiring specific legal procedures to be followed.
Legal Proceedings and Court Documents
Contested adoptions necessitate the filing of petitions to terminate the parental rights of the contesting parent(s). Having an attorney well-versed in Adoption Law is crucial, as the statute outlines the specific terms under which termination of parental rights may be sought. Once the petition is filed and proper notice is given to the contesting parent(s), a hearing is scheduled to determine whether the termination of parental rights should be granted or denied. During this hearing, each biological parent can present their case and explain why their rights should not be terminated. Therefore, the service of legal notice is of utmost importance, and your attorney must provide acceptable proof that each parent has received the notice as specified in the adoption statute.
A Real-Life Contested Adoption Success Story
At Petrelli Previtera, we believe in sharing success stories that highlight the impact of our dedicated legal team. For example, in early 2023, attorney April Townsend successfully concluded a challenging contested adoption case, underscoring our commitment to ensuring the child’s best interests.
In this case, the adoptive parents were the paternal aunt and her husband, who had provided loving care to the child for several years. Both birth parents had a history of issues that could impact the child, including criminal backgrounds, substance abuse, and housing instability. Despite minimal involvement in the child’s life, they unexpectedly contested the adoption proceedings.
Attorney April Townsend and the legal team at Petrelli Previtera, prepared for a long and arduous trial, meticulously addressing the concerns raised by the birth parents and highlighting the positive impact of the child’s upbringing under the care of the aunt and her husband. Throughout the trial, the issues with the birth parents were thoroughly examined while emphasizing the child’s thriving well-being in the aunt’s loving and stable environment.
Attorney April Townsend’s representation and presentation of the facts ultimately led to a successful resolution despite the challenges. The court recognized the child’s best interests and granted the adoption, allowing the child to find a forever home. The conclusion of this case marked a rewarding moment for all involved, especially considering how hard we had to fight to reach this result.
The Importance of Legal Representation
In complex and time-consuming adoptions, it is crucial to have an adoption attorney on your side. With Petrelli Previtera, you will be guided through the adoption process by experienced adoption lawyers. Our attorneys understand the complexities of contested adoptions and strive to achieve positive outcomes. If you require assistance with adoptions or any other family law matters, please contact our team at Petrelli Previtera to schedule a consultation. We are committed to helping navigate the legal intricacies of contested adoptions in Pennsylvania.