No. 7 March Term, 1979, Appeal from the Decree dated January 11, 1979, of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Orphans' Court Division, at No. 368 of 1977.
Joanne Ross Wilder, Patricia G. Miller, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
No appearance for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Manderino, J., did not participate in the decision of this case.
The issue presented is whether appellant, not the spouse of the natural father, may become an adopting parent of his child, when the father gives only "qualified" consent, specifically retaining his parental rights. Our Adoption Act requires, as a prerequisite to adoption, inter alia, either the unqualified consent of natural parents under section 411, or the termination of their parental rights under sections 302 or 311.*fn1 Susko Adoption Case, 363 Pa. 78, 69 A.2d 132 (1949). The only provision for a qualified consent is contained in section 503:
"Whenever a parent consents to the adoption of his child by his spouse, the parent-child relationship between him and his child shall remain whether or not he is one of the petitioners in the adoption proceeding."*fn2
The orphans' court denied appellant's petition for adoption holding that the consent given by the natural father did not meet the statutory requirements for adoption by a nonspouse. We affirm.
Appellant seeks to adopt E.M.A. who was born on April 23, 1971. The child's natural parents never married. The natural mother, who has had no contact with E.M.A. for several years, consented to her adoption by appellant. The natural father, as already stated, executed only a qualified consent, retaining his parental rights. Appellant contends that even though she is not the spouse of the child's father, and has only his qualified consent, she is nevertheless entitled to be an adopting parent under section 503.
By its express terms, section 503 is clearly limited to adoption by the spouse of a natural parent. This statutory provision is available only in private or family adoptions, upon the marriage or remarriage of the natural father or
mother. Only in such intra-family adoptions may a natural parent execute a valid consent retaining parental rights.*fn3 And only in such a husband-wife relationship is the qualified consent legally ...