I offer news you may find encouraging. No, you don't need him to sign away his rights. His complete non-involvement and non-contact for a period in excess of six months is grounds enough to involuntarily terminate his parental rights in the context of an adoption proceeding.
Yes, his rights need to be terminated before the adoption can occur, but that is simply part of the same proceeding. In Allegheny County, for example, two hearings occur: the first to terminate the biological father's rights, and the second to take care of the adoption, itself.
Your biggest barrier is likely to be getting the father served, if you cannot find him. He has a right to be put on formal notice that his rights to his child are in danger of being terminated. You should make a genuinely diligent search for him, either to find him or because you will need to convince a judge that you should be permitted to serve him by alternative means (e.g., service on a relative, or newspaper advertising) because he cannot be found. As you search, consider the simple expedient of trying to find him on Facebook; not long ago, a client of mine tried everything he could think of to locate his wife but came up dry, before finding her that way.
You will need a lawyer's help on this one. If the Erie County court is like the one in Allegheny County, you will be dealing with sticklers for detail. With so very much at stake, you want to do this right the first time.
Attorney Michael B. Greenstein
This response is offered for informational purposes only, does not create a lawyer/client relationship, and should not be taken as legal advice.
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