Pennsylvania Code & Bulletin
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

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The Pennsylvania Code website reflects the Pennsylvania Code changes effective through 52 Pa.B. 5624 (August 27, 2022).

231 Pa. Code Rule 15.4. Notice of Hearing to Terminate Parental Rights; Method and Time.

Rule 15.4. Notice of Hearing to Terminate Parental Rights; Method and Time.

 (a)  Contents of Notice; Service of Notice and Copies to Others.

   (1)  For a petition filed under Rule 15.7 (relating to Voluntary Relinquishment to Agency) or Rule 15.8 (relating to Voluntary Relinquishment to Adult Intending to Adopt Child), notice shall be in the form and served upon the individuals as provided in 23 Pa.C.S. §  2503(b).

   (2)  For a petition filed under Rule 15.9 (relating to Alternative Procedure for Relinquishment by Confirmation of Consent to Adoption), notice shall be in the form provided in 23 Pa.C.S. §  2513(b) and served upon the individuals as provided in 23 Pa.C.S. §  2504(b).

   (3)  For a petition filed under Rule 15.10 (relating to Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights), notice shall be in the form and served upon the individuals as provided in 23 Pa.C.S. §  2513(b).

 (b)  Method of Notice.

   (1)  For a proceeding under Rule 15.7 (relating to Voluntary Relinquishment to Agency) or Rule 15.8 (relating to Voluntary Relinquishment to Adult Intending to Adopt Child), every person whose parental rights are sought to be terminated in the proceeding and any other person entitled to notice under 23 Pa.C.S. §  2503(b) shall be provided with notice of the hearing by one of the following means:

     (A)   personal service;

     (B)   registered or certified mail with delivery restricted to the addressee only and a return receipt requested, or first-class United States mail postage prepaid, mailed to the person’s residence, location where he or she is known to be staying, or business where he or she is known to be currently employed;

     (C)   electronic transmission provided such person has signed a writing consenting that notice be sent by electronic transmission, providing an electronic mail address or social media account to which such notice shall be sent, and verifying that he or she regularly accesses and reviews such electronic mail address or social media account; or

     (D)   such other means including electronic transmission as the court may require under the facts of the individual case. Any person entitled to notice of the hearing may waive in writing such notice.

   (2)  For a proceeding under Rule 15.9 (relating to confirming consent as an Alternative Procedure for Relinquishment), every person whose parental rights are sought to be terminated in the proceeding and any other person entitled to notice under 23 Pa.C.S. §  2504(b) shall be provided with notice of the hearing by one of the following means:

     (A)   personal service;

     (B)   registered or certified mail with delivery restricted to the addressee only and a return receipt requested mailed to the person’s residence, location where he or she is known to be staying, or business where he or she is known to be currently employed;

     (C)   electronic transmission provided such person has signed a writing consenting that notice be sent by electronic transmission, providing an electronic mail address or social media account to which such notice shall be sent, and verifying that he or she regularly accesses and reviews such electronic mail address or social media account; or

     (D)   such other means including electronic transmission as the court may require under the facts of the individual case.

 Any person entitled to notice of the hearing may waive in writing such notice.

   (3)(A)  For a proceeding under Rule 15.10 (relating to Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights), every person entitled to notice as provided in 23 Pa.C.S. §  2513(b) shall be provided with notice of the hearing by one of the following means:

       (i)   personal service;

       (ii)   registered or certified mail with delivery restricted to the addressee only and a return receipt requested mailed to the person’s residence, location where he or she is known to be staying, or business where he or she is known to be currently employed; or

       (iii)   such other means including electronic transmission as the court may require under the facts of the individual case.

     (B)   If the identity and location of the person whose parental rights are sought to be involuntarily terminated are known or can be determined after reasonable investigation, a copy of the petition for involuntary termination of parental rights shall be attached to the notice required by 23 Pa.C.S. §  2513(b).

     (C)   A person who is not the subject of the proceeding and whose parental rights are not sought to be terminated in the proceeding but who is entitled to receive notice of the hearing under 23 Pa.C.S. §  2513(b) may waive in writing such notice.

   (4)  If service cannot be obtained upon the person whose parental rights are sought to be terminated either because service is refused or unsuccessful and no alternative service is directed by the court or because the person’s identity or whereabouts are unknown after reasonable investigation, then notice by publication shall be given as directed by the court, after a motion in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. No. 430(a) and upon a finding by the court that a reasonable investigation was made.

     (A)   In addition to any other requirements that may be imposed by the court, the publication notice shall include the last name of the birth mother, the date of the child’s birth, the place of the child’s birth and the child’s gender. The publication notice shall include the contents of the notice required by 23 Pa.C.S. §  2503(b) or 23 Pa.C.S. §  2513(b), as applicable, but shall not include notice of the opportunity for a birth relative of the child to enter into a Contact Agreement.

     (B)   The publication notice shall direct the person whose parental rights are sought to be terminated to contact the petitioner or counsel for the petitioner as set forth in the notice to obtain a copy of the petition prior to the hearing.

     (C)   Publication shall occur once in a newspaper of general circulation for the county where the birth parent whose rights are sought to be terminated resides, or if not known, the place where the child was conceived.

   (5)  If service cannot be obtained upon a person who is not the subject of the proceeding and whose parental rights are not sought to be terminated in the proceeding but who is entitled to receive notice of the hearing under 23 Pa.C.S. §  2503(b), §  2504(b), or §  2513(b), and service could not be obtained either because service is refused or unsuccessful or because the person’s identity or whereabouts are unknown after reasonable investigation, no further service of the notice shall be required.

   (6)  Once service has been obtained in a manner as provided upon the person whose parental rights are sought to be terminated, all persons entitled to receive any subsequent legal paper or notice may be served by hand delivery, by first-class United States mail, postage prepaid, to the person’s last known residence, location where he or she is known to be staying or business where he or she is known to be currently employed, by electronic transmission provided such person has signed a writing consenting that notice be sent by electronic transmission, providing an electronic mail address or social media account to which such notice shall be sent, and verifying that he or she regularly accesses and reviews such electronic mail address or social media account, or to the person’s counsel of record, if represented.

 (c)  Timing of Notice. Notice of the hearing shall be provided at least 10 days prior to the date of the hearing.

Explanatory Comment

   The notice required by subparagraph (a)(3) advises a parent whose rights are subject to termination in an involuntary termination proceeding that he or she has the right to be represented at the hearing by a lawyer. The notice includes the contact information for the person or agency in the judicial district from whom information as to the availability of legal help may be obtained. The court shall appoint counsel for a parent whose rights are subject to termination in an involuntary termination proceeding, if upon petition of the parent, the court determines that the parent is unable to pay for counsel or that payment would result in substantial financial hardship. See 23 Pa.C.S. §  2313(a.1); Rule 15.10(d)(2).

   Personal service in the context of this Rule means service by handing a copy to the person entitled to notice.

   See Pa.R.C.P. No. 76 that certified mail is the equivalent of registered mail.

   See also Pa.R.C.P. No. 430(a) regarding the averments necessary in a motion for alternative service if service cannot otherwise be accomplished. If the motion under Pa.R.C.P. No. 430(a) avers sufficient facts and includes sufficient supporting exhibits to establish that a reasonable investigation was made to ascertain the identity or whereabouts of the subject birth parent, the court need not conduct a hearing on the motion, but shall issue an order directing alternative service, including service by electronic transmission or publication.

   The PACFile electronic filing system, developed and administered by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, does not provide notice of the hearing that is compliant with the requirements of (b)(1)(C) and (b)(2)(C), unless a person consents in writing to notices being sent by electronic transmission. In the alternative, a court may, per subparagraphs (b)(1)(D), (b)(2)(D), and (b)(3)(A)(iii) and dependent upon the facts of an individual case, permit notification of the hearing by PACFile without requiring consent in writing that the notice be sent by electronic transmission.

Source

   The provisions of this Rule 15.4 rescinded and replaced July 22, 2021, effective July 1, 2022, 51 Pa.B. 4267. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (366187) to (366188).



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