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PENNSYLVANIA STATUTE SUMMARY/Termination of Parental Rights
Pennsylvania Statute Summary
Termination of Parental Rights
At the bottom of the following summary you will find a link that will take you to the Pennsylvania state code website. The citations in the summary will aid in your search for the full text of the relevant provisions on the state code website.
A parent may petition the court to voluntarily relinquish his/her rights to a child if the child has been in the care of the agency for at least three days or the parent has given the agency written notice of his/her intent to transfer custody of the child. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2501.
A parent may petition the court for permission to voluntarily relinquish hi/her rights to a child when the child has been in the prospective adoptive parents' custody for at least three days and the prospective adoptive parents have filed a report of intention to adopt. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2502.
A minor parent who wants to voluntarily relinquishing his/her parental rights to a child does not need to obtain the consent of his/her parents, but the agency or prospective adoptive parents must consent to accept custody of the child. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2501(b).
The court may terminate the parental rights of a putative father who has been given notice of the hearing, failed to appear to object or file a written objection to the termination, and has not filed an acknowledgment of paternity. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2503.
Notice of a hearing on voluntarily relinquishment must be given to any parent who petitioned to voluntarily relinquish his/her rights, the other biological parent, any putative father, and a minor petitioner's parent or guardian. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2503(b).
A court may terminate a parent's rights based upon any of the following grounds:
~for at least six months before the petition was filed, the parent has shown he/she wants to relinquish parental rights or has refused or failed to undertake parental duties;
~the child has been without proper care, control or subsistence needed for his/her well-being due to the parent's incapacity, abuse or neglect and failure to remedy the conditions causing the circumstance;
~the father is not the biological father, but only the child's presumptive father;
~the parent abandoned the child, cannot be found and has not made any contact for at least three months;
~the court removed the child from the parent's custody or the child was removed under a voluntary agreement for at least six months, the conditions requiring removal still exist, the parent cannot or will not remedy the conditions in a reasonable amount of time, the services provided to the parent are not likely to remedy the conditions and termination of parental rights is in the child's best interest
~the child is a newborn and the parent is aware or should be aware of the child's birth, does not live with the child, is not married to the child¡¦s other parent and has not contacted or financially supported the child for at least four months before the petition was filed;
~the child was conceived during a rape;
~the court removed the child from the parent's custody or the child was removed under a voluntary agreement for at least 12 months, the conditions requiring removal still exist and termination of parental rights is in the child's best interest;
~the parent has been convicted of committing a serious crime against one of his/her children, including homicide or aggravated assault.
23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2511(a).
The court may not terminate a parent's rights based solely on factors such as housing, income, clothing and medical care if these things are not within the parent's control. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2511(b).
When deciding to terminate parent's rights, the court must focus on the child's needs and welfare. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2511(b).
A petition to terminate the rights of a parent may be filed by:
~the other parent
~an individual who has custody of the child who has filed a report of intention to adopt, or
~the child's guardian ad litem or attorney, if the child has been adjudicated dependent.
23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2512.
The court of common pleas has original jurisdiction over termination proceedings. The case may be brought in the county where the biological parent resides. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 2301, 2302.
The petition to terminate parental rights must state the grounds and facts supporting termination and that the petitioner will assume custody of the child until he/she is adopted. If the child's father is not identified in the petition, it state whether a claim of paternity has been filed. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2512.
After the biological parent files a petition to voluntarily relinquish his/her rights, the court must schedule a hearing more than ten days later. The biological parent must attend the hearing. After the hearing, the court may enter a decree terminating the parent's rights. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2503.
After the petition to terminate rights has been filed, the court must schedule a hearing after at least 10 days. Notice of the hearing must be given to the parents, putative father and parent of a minor parent whose rights are being terminated. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2513.
After the hearing, the court must make a finding regarding the grounds of termination under 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2511 and whether termination is proper. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2513.
Representation of Parties
If the parent whose rights are subject to termination in an involuntary termination proceeding can show by petition that he/she is unable to pay for counsel or that payment to counsel would result in substantial financial hardship, the court must appoint counsel to represent the parent. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2313(A.1).
The court must appoint counsel to represent the child if either parent is contesting the termination of his/her rights. The court may appoint counsel for the child if it is in the child's best interests. The attorney or law firm appointed to represent the child cannot simultaneously represent the biological parents. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2313(a).
The termination order must grant custody of the child to the agency, a person consenting to custody, or the person that petitioned to terminate rights. The agency or person taking custody of the child has the authority to consent to the child¡¦s marriage, entrance to the armed forces, medical treatment and any other decisions a biological parent would normally make. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2521(b)-(c).
An agency that petitions for termination need not identify an adoptive family in the petition. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2512.
An order terminating a parent's rights also takes away the parent's right to object to or get notice of the child's adoption. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2521(a).
The Pennsylvania Adoption Cooperative Exchange (PACE) must register and take responsibility for the referral of all children whose biological parent's rights have been terminated for at least 90 days but have not had a report of intention to adopt filed on their behalf. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2553. PACE is required to create and administer an information program which informs prospective adoptive parents of the need for adoptive homes and a photo-listing service for all children in the exchange. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2554.
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