Appeal from decree of Orphans' Court of Delaware County, No. 232 of 1966, in re adoption of John William Jacono, a minor.
I. B. Sinclair, for appellant.
John J. Maffei, for appellees.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell.
On June 30, 1966, Gabriel F. Trasatti and his wife Maureen H. Trasatti (nee Rumford) filed a petition for adoption seeking the adoption of Mrs. Trasatti's son, John William Jacono (hereinafter called "John"). The Court granted the adoption and John's father, William J. Jacono, Jr., appealed.
John, who was born in 1958, was the son of Jacono, the present appellant, and Mrs. Trasatti, who had been married to Jacono in 1957 and divorced in 1963, shortly before her marriage to Trasatti.
The Orphans' Court granted the adoption, principally and inter alia, on the ground that appellant had abandoned John for a period greater than six months. Subsequently appellant filed a petition in the Orphans' Court to revoke or vacate the decree of adoption, alleging that Mrs. Trasatti had accepted support payments for John from the appellant both prior and subsequent to the entry of the decree of adoption, and that Mrs. Trasatti permitted a person with an extensive criminal record to care for John. The Orphans' Court denied his petition.
Appellant contends (1) that abandonment was not established by the evidence; (2) that he was precluded
from introducing evidence to show that because of the character of the adopting petitioners the adoption was not in the best interests of the child; and (3) that the Court erred in denying without a hearing his petition to revoke the decree of adoption.
The law of adoption in Pennsylvania is well settled and has been reiterated in several recent cases. We shall briefly summarize them: (1) A child may be adopted if its lawful or natural parents (a) consent to the adoption or (b) if the objecting parent or parents (has or) have "abandoned" the child for a period of six months or more. In the latter case, the child may be adopted, irrespective of whether the objecting parent consents. Act of April 4, 1925, P. L. 127, as amended by the Act of June 30, 1947, P. L. 1180, § 2, 1 P.S. § 2. A finding of consent or abandonment is an absolute prerequisite to the approval of an adoption petition. Snellgrose Adoption Case, 425 Pa. 258, 228 A.2d 764; Smith Adoption Case, 412 Pa. 501, 502, 194 A.2d 919.
Unlike custody cases, in adoption proceedings the welfare of the child is not material until either consent or abandonment as prescribed by the Adoption Act has been established. Once abandonment has been established and, only then, it becomes the duty of the Court to determine whether the ...