Adoption laws are a little bit different in every state, so you should check with a local lawyer to be sure the answers I'm giving would be the same in PA. You are talking about a step-parent adoption. Generally, there is no time requirement for you to be married to the children's mother, but it is a very important step, and would subject you to an obligation to pay child support if you and their mother are ever divorced. So, you want to be sure you really understand the significance of a step-parent adoption.
There is no way to "bypass" the biological father. You must provide notice to him and an opportunity for him to object. If you can't find him, however, and you can show the court that you made a diligent search for him (I'm sure the steps for diligent search are set out in PA law), then a court may excuse his consent. The adoption would then be able to go ahead without it.
I would suggest that, before you call a local lawyer, you and your wife really try to locate the father through any means you know. Keep a list of all the places you called and people you talked to. If you can find him, just ask him if he will consent and get a phone number and address where he can be contacted in the future. Then, call a local lawyer who is experienced in adoptions, and provide that contact information. The lawyer can send a proper legal consent form, and if the father signs it, then the adoption should go through smoothly.
If you really can't find him, then let your lawyer know all the steps you've taken. The lawyer might advice you to do a couple more things. Then, if you still can't find him, you can go ahead with the adoption without his consent.
This is a very important legal action. It's really important that you do it correctly. Please call a local lawyer who is experienced in adoption law.
I am licensed in Pennsylvania and handle adoptions in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties.
There are basically two steps in the adoption. The first will be the termination of the biological father's rights. If he has not been in contact with the child and you are not sure where he resides, that is ok. If so, you will need to attempt to locate him and keep a record of all of your steps. When the termination hearing is scheduled you will need to put a notice about the hearing in the newspaper. If the birth father does not respond and the court is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to locate him, the court will terminate his rights involuntarily.
The second is the filing of the Petition for Adoption in which information about you and the children will be set forth. A hearing will be scheduled where you and your wife will testify to confirm the information in the Petition. When the hearing is completed, the judge will sign an adoption decree that will name you and your wife as the legal parents. You can also change your stepchildrens' name as part of the adoption.
I will be glad to talk with you in more detail about the process.
Feel free to contact me.
632 Germantown Ave.
Lafayette Hill, PA 19444
Immigration and Citizenship Law
Domestic and International Adoption