Frontiers in LGBT Family Law: Marriage and Beyond

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I am pleased to announce my attendance today at the continuing education class “Frontiers in LGBT Family Law: Marriage and Beyond” organized by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute in Philadelphia. Topics of the class include changes in federal rights and benefits post-Windsor, detailed analysis of all the state and federal cases currently pending involving gay marriage in Pennsylvania, assisted reproductive technology and adoption for same-sex couples, custody issues, and other pertinent topics. The presenters also include Bruce Hanes, the Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans Court for Montgomery County, who is issued almost 200 marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Montgomery County.

Please check back over the coming weeks for articles on LGBT rights and legal issues. If you have any questions or concerns (legal or otherwise), please contact me at mhovey@wolfbaldwin.com.

Pennsylvania: Illegal Placement of Children for Adoption or Custody

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Presently, a hot topic in the news is the illegal placement of adopted children.  The focus of the news stories are foreign born children adopted by American couples who later decide to shirk their responsibility and privately (and quietly) transfer the children to another individual or couple.  One such story is about Anna Barnes, a Russian transferred by her adoptive parents at age 13.   The article can be found at: http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/10/20407919-adopted-girl-says-new-mom-slept-naked-with-her?lite.

As stated in the article, to help protect adopted children, Pennsylvania passed the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.  If the placement of a child crosses state lines, then the law requires that notice be given to the Department of Public Welfare and, if the child is being received into Pennsylvania, approval secured.  Placement is defined as “effecting admission of a child to an institution, except an educational institution, or effecting his reception in a family home, whether or not a charge is made for his care by the institution or family home.”  62 P.S. § 746 (2013).  In other words, the law applies not just to adoption, but also to transfers of custody.  A child shall not be transferred into or out of Pennsylvania without the Commonwealth’s approval.

To secure the Commonwealth’s approval, the payment of a bond (not to exceed $1,000) may be required if the child is “is not of unsound mind or body.”  62 P.S. § 749 (2013).  “If prior to [the child’s] eighteenth birthday or his adoption, he becomes a public charge or is adjudged a delinquent” then the Commonwealth may demand the child’s removal from the State by the original parents.  A failure to comply will result in the loss of the bonded monies.

The penalty for violating this law, however, is relatively light.  Knowingly placing a child in violation of this law may result in a misdemeanor, subject to a fine not to exceed $100 and up to 30 days in imprisonment.  62 P.S. § 753.

It is vital to note, however, that placements are excluded if they involve “a parent, stepparent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, nor to an adult brother, sister, half brother or half sister, when any such relative receives or brings a child into this Commonwealth for the purpose of giving him a home in the relative’s own family.”  62 P.S. § 752.

What is the take-away then?  (1) If you are an adoptive parent seeking the adoption of a child born or residing outside of Pennsylvania, verify that the placing agency or party complied with the requirements of this law prior to proceeding with the adoption.  If the placement is in violation of this law, there may be potential complications during the actual adoption process.  (2) If you are looking to place a child with a family friend (for example, a loving aunt and uncle who are not actual blood/legal relatives), even if they do not intend to adopt the child, you must comply with this law.

If you have any questions regarding adoption or custody crossing state lines, please contact me directly at mhovey@wolfbaldwin.com for a formal consultation.  Thank you!