An adoption is a happy time in the life of the adopting family and in the life of the child being adopted. However, adoption is a complex and intricate area of family law. Adoption in Virginia is solely the product of statutory law and therefore compliance with all of the statutory requirements is a must to make the process proceed as seamlessly as possible. Adoptions can be stressful even at the best of times because of the legal hoops an adopting family must jump through even when an adoption is not contested. When there is conflict in an adoption, the stress levels can go through the roof. For these reasons, adoption is an area of law where it is almost always recommended that a skilled and experienced family attorney be involved.
I think in PA it is 18 but I will check into it. I'm very open with her and she could see her birth mother now if she wanted to and we could actually locate her. She met her three siblings last year and now keeps in touch with them. My adopted son (now 20 years old) has no interest in meeting with his bio mom or siblings but I've always been open with him and left him know it was an option.
You mentioned PA... so Im guessing thats where you are (Im in PA as well). We are adopting a child from foster care and recently went to the lawyer's office. The first step the lawyer told us about the process was to file an "intent to adopt" letter with the court. It was a formal letter that had detailed information about the child, us, bios, etc. Additionally, attached to the letter of intent had to be a copy of our child abuse clearances and a homestudy. Based on how the lawyer walked us through the paperwork, the clearances and homestudy was a must (not just b/c of foster care). He did explain all the law references to us that were in the letter, but I don't have a copy of the intent letter yet that he was filing. (It was a rough draft that we were going over). I really think you will need a lawyer. If you still want to try to do it without one, call the local court and find out what papers you need to submit to request an adoption.
You need to have a lawyer. You can't involuntarily reliquish. Relinquish means your are voluntarily giving up the child. Both parents have to voluntarily relinquish or have involuntary TPR done by a judge in court. The birthparents rights have to be terminated by a judge before you can begin the process to adopt. Usually an adoption agency handles the TPR signing. With an independent adoption, you have to have an attorney. First they will locate the birthmom & have her sign consent. Then they will attempt to locate the birthfather. If they don't know the whereabouts of the birthparents, they will have to make some kind of attempt to locate them. Usually it means sending a certified letter to the last known address, they can contact motor vehicles for address on a driver's license, and/or put a notice in newspapers in the areas where the birthparents might be living. If no one comes forward, the judge will usually TPR the parents based on abandonment and then you can adopt. The judge will need a homestudy since you are adopting a child who is not a relative of yours.
Choose an attorney with experience in private adoptions. When you interview attorneys, ask if they are a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys or an equivalent state accreditation. If your attorney is not accredited, question her about her specific experience handling private adoptions. The AAAA maintains a directory of accredited adoption attorneys in the United States.
There are certain people who may be ineligible to adopt a child based on a variety of factors. If a potential parent has a criminal record of a certain type then they may be precluded from adopting a child. In addition, if the potential parent or parents have a record of abuse of violence in their past, they may also be precluded from adopting a child. The process of adopting a child is incredibly complex and intricate and it cannot be stressed enough that before going through these proceedings you should contact an experienced attorney to be by your side.
Now if you wish to go it alone, there are ways to do so. One such way is to utilize the services of a Do-it-yourself adoption service such as RapidAdoption.com. For a reasonable fee, the fine folks at RapidAdoption.com will complete all of the necessary paperwork for the adoption in your state. They will even do it if the child is in a different state than you. They have been doing legal paperwork since 1998 and have prepared 1000’s of legal documents in all 50 states. But their service is only available in the United States and only with domestic adoptions. So if you reside outside of the United States or are adopting from another country, then this is not an option for you.