CUSTODY AND ADOPTION BY GRANDPARENTS AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS
With today’s ever-changing family dynamics there have come major changes in Family Law, especially when it involves the complicated legal and emotional factors surrounding child custody and adoption cases. Keeping up with these issues means that Mindy J. Snyder, of Liebmann Family Law, must use her more than 30 years of experience to help and guide families through the legal process of child custody and adoption.
When most of us think of adoption, it evokes images of a couple adopting a newborn, toddler, or older child. But this reality has been replaced by stepparents, grandparents, or other family members, requesting to adopt a child as the result of the biological parents succumbing to substance abuse issues or other hardships.
Society has changed so much, with non-marriage relationships and marriages after having children, which is why the practice has extended to include such adoptions as well as other family members seeking custody of the children. These cases involve loving and kind people – grandparents, stepparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members – stepping in when necessary to care for the children. The goal of the court is to provide and maintain a safe and stable environment for the child.
Child custody cases have historically involved divorcing parents. In recent years however, the current case load of custody and adoptions have stemmed from the absence of one or more biological parents, and the willingness of another family member to step in and assume the daily responsibilities for the child. The purpose of the Child Custody statute is to give a child stability, and if the child has a bond with the biological mother or father, the parties can enter into a contract for that parent to have contact with the child, such as: letters, phone calls, or monthly visits.
If a party wants to become the legal parent of a child – with all the same rights, entitlements, and obligations as a biological parent – he or she may legally adopt the child. This is an obligation that is not taken lightly, and in the event of a stepparent adoption, if the stepparent then divorces, he or she will still be considered the parent of the child.
In Pennsylvania, the Grounds for Involuntary Termination of a parent’s rights are established by statute. In most situations where the biological parent has not had contact with the child for an extended period, (six months or more before the petition filing), there are usually two ways that are legally appropriate to terminate the parent’s rights.
The first is if the parent has failed to perform his or her parental duties for six months before the petition is filed. The other is if the repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect, or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care and the conditions cannot, or will not, be remedied by that parent.
Adoptions can be voluntary or involuntary and involves the termination of the rights of a biological parent which makes adoptions so complex as it is much more emotional than other aspects of the law. The actual adoption hearing is taking this raw emotion, bringing it to court, and allowing everyone to open their hearts.
Alternatively, a third party can seek custody of the child. This does not involve an adoption but instead allows the court to determine which parent, or acting parent/guardian, is likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational, and special needs of the child.
This is just an outline of the issues that you may confront. For more information on each of these issues, please schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney. Liebmann Family Law, in Newtown, offers a free initial consultation. Making the decision to proceed and choosing an attorney is not easy. You must find someone who knows the law and someone with whom you feel comfortable will protect your interest.
Liebmann Family Law in Newtown was founded in 2008, and is one of a handful of firms in Bucks County that focuses exclusively on family issues: contested and uncontested divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support and alimony, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements, division of property, wills and estates, grandparents’ rights, and adoption.
The Liebmann Family Law Team includes three full-time attorneys: Jeffrey A. Liebmann, David Sowerbutts, and Mindy Snyder, as well as four legal assistants. Each of the attorneys has more than 30 years of Family Law experience, and are known for their special skills, as well as handling cases with a great deal of care and compassion. The firm has created an atmosphere in which any one of the attorneys can step in and handle any emergency, and each of them has the ability to answer any questions that arise throughout a case.
As an experienced litigator, Mindy Snyder has represented clients throughout Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties, as well as throughout New Jersey in Mercer, Burlington, Camden, Ocean and Atlantic Counties. As part of her practice, Mindy has handled complex trial issues and negotiations in divorce matters, child and spousal support, alimony, equitable distribution, pension issues and adoption matters. She also represents clients in New Jersey for matrimonial issues, criminal matters, motor vehicle violations and municipal court law.