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How an Adoption Petition in Pennsylvania Became a Lengthy Court Battle

Adopting children can bring joy to qualified families and individuals, but sometimes adoption proceedings can also create complicated legal hurdles. When a Penn Hills foster mother attempted to legally adopt a young girl who was in her foster care, the child’s maternal aunt traveled to the United States from Cameroon to prevent the adoption. A lengthy and heated court battle began when she arrived. The dispute between the child’s aunt and her foster mom lasted more than two years and included 16 trial dates.

The 6-year-old girl in the middle of the legal battle was born in the U.S. and was placed in foster care after her biological mother experienced medical problems. She had been in the care and custody of her foster mother, Deborah Cutrary, since 2012. Although she suffered from trauma and was somewhat withdrawn, the young girl had bonded with Cutrary.

After two years spent establishing close ties with the girl and with her foster rights expiring, Cutrary filed an official adoption petition in Allegheny County. The adoption procedure, however, was held up when the child’s maternal aunt in Cameroon, Catherine Gana, decided that she also would like to adopt the child. She contested Cutrary’s petition in court, expecting the court to side with her and allow her to adopt her niece because she was her blood relative. Gana had previously been successful in adopting the girl’s two biological brothers, who were also born in Pennsylvania and had since been living with her in Cameroon.

One of the arguments Gana used in her custody effort was the issue of Cutrary’s adult son, who visited Cutrary’s home regularly and had been convicted of attempted homicide. He is also a registered sex offender. The argument did not hold up in court, however, because his record was considered unrelated to the contested adoption. Cutrary gained full legal custody of her foster daughter.

In some cases, an adoption process can become prolonged and stressful. If your plans are being held up by a natural parent or a biological relative who is attempting to derail the procedure, Feldstein Grinberg Lang & McKee, P.C. can help. An experienced attorney can mediate and facilitate an adoption, helping you avoid putting a child through a legal dispute with potentially lasting negative effects. Call 412-301-7395 or contact us online to learn how we can help resolve your issue.

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