Thinking About a Pennsylvania Step-Parent Adoption?

In an ideal world, every child would have two loving, responsible parents. All too often, though, that just is not the case. Sometimes, a tragic death take a parent from a child. In other cases, however, a parent is simply absent from the child’s life. Then there are cases where the parent’s contact with his or her child is infrequent and where that parent does not financially, emotionally, or spiritually support the child. In these latter situations, where there is a living parent, but that parent is either totally absent or only barely involved in the child’s life, involuntary termination of parental rights followed by a step-parent adoption may well be in the child’s best interest.

In Pennsylvania, the grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights are spelled out in the Domestic Relations Code at 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511. In the typical step-parent adoption scenario, perhaps the most common reason courts terminate the parental rights of one parent is because that “… parent by conduct continuing for a period of at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or has refused or failed to perform parental duties.” The birth parent and his or her spouse or partner must prove the other birth parent’s “settled purpose” or refusal or failure to perform parental duties by clear and convincing evidence.

The laws of Pennsylvania governing the adoption of children are complex. The Orphans’ Court rules are also complex. A successful adoption action requires legal expertise, attention to detail, and rigid compliance with law and rules of court. If you are considering a step-parent adoption and live in Central Pennsylvania, feel free to contact the Law Office of Sean Potter, PC to arrange for a free consultation. From my office in New Bloomfield, Perry County, Pennsylvania, I provide adoption services in counties including Perry, Juniata, Cumberland, Dauphin, Mifflin, Center, Snyder, Franklin, York, and Lancaster among others.


ARD Policies Vary by County

In Pennsylvania, a first conviction for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or a controlled substance almost always means jail time, a 12 month license suspension, and a heavy fine. Many drivers charged with first offense DUI, though, are eligible for ARD, which stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. ARD can allow someone facing their first ever DUI charge to avoid a criminal conviction for DUI as well as the unpleasant consequences of that conviction. Drivers who are admitted into an ARD program face license suspensions of up to 90 days, with most drivers losing their driving privileges for 30 or 60 days. They also must take Alcohol Highway Safety Classes, submit to drug and alcohol evaluations, seek treatment for addiction (if an evaluation reveals a problem), and follow rules laid down by the county’s probation department, and the court.

The local rules vary from county to county. Cumberland County, for instance, offers Alcohol Highway Safety Classes on weeknights and weekends. ARD participants must complete a total of six 2.5 hour classes to successfully complete the program. In neighboring Perry County, participants must complete four 3 hour classes. Perry County offers the classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

Classes, though, are only part of it. Juniata County requires that ARD participants complete 30 hours of community service. Dauphin County participants must attend a victim impact panel. Each county also imposes fees and costs participants must pay in order to successfully complete the ARD program. In Dauphin, participants pay at least a $1,500.00 “acceptance fee”. Perry County participants pay $300.00 plus the “costs of prosecution”. Costs can include lab fees and a variety of other charges, many unrelated to the offense of DUI.

The rules, fees, and policies I’ve just described are by no means the only ones. It’s important that anyone facing a driving under the influence charge discuss all aspects of their case, including the possibility of ARD, with a lawyer experienced in defending DUI cases.

If you are facing a DUI charge and would like to discuss your possible ARD eligibility with an experienced Pennsylvania Attorney feel free to contact me at 717-582-0400. I offer free, no obligation, initial consults.

Sean Potter
Law Office of Sean Potter, PC
15 E. Main Street | PO Box 121
New Bloomfield, PA 17068
Phone: 717-582-0400
Fax: 717-582-0401