Children of Same-Sex Couples in Pennsylvania

With regards to children, Pennsylvania same-sex couples face a variety of unique legal issues. PA family and orphans’ court laws come into play because in order to build their families, LGBT couples must use Artificial Reproductive Technologies (ART) to conceive a child with the assistance of an egg donor and surrogate or a sperm donor. In order to be sure that both spouse’s rights are protected, it is imperative that Pennsylvania LGBT couples contact an Allegheny County LGBT Rights Lawyer.

Same Sex Partner Adoptions in PA

Same sex couples can become parents in a variety of ways. For example, they can adopt a child from a third party or one of the partners in the same sex couple can give birth through the use of assisted reproduction including utilizing a third party sperm or egg donor and surrogate.

Even if one partner is the biological parent or egg or sperm donor of the child, the other parent may not have any legal rights regarding that child in the event of the relationship ending either by choice or due to the death of a biological parent. This is true even if both parents have been actively involved in raising the child from its birth, living with the child, or financially supporting the child and the other parent.

And, despite the fact that the PA Department of Health, Vital Records Department will issue birth certificates with the names of same-sex spouses listed as the parents, same sex couples with children must take additional precautions, such as same sex partner/spouse adoptions, to ensure that both parent’s rights are legally protected.

Under Pennsylvania law, gay and lesbian couples may participate in a second parent adoption or a step-parent adoption if the same-sex couple is married. This allows the non-biological parent of the child to become a legal parent and establish rights which will be protected by law. In addition to protecting the non-biological parent’s rights, adoption also protects the child because it awards the child the opportunity to have health insurance through the non-biological parent and grants the child inheritance rights in the event that the non-biological parent dies without a valid last will and testament.

PA Child Custody Actions For Same Sex Couples

A threshold question in custody cases for the PA Family Courts is the determination of whether an individual has standing, or in other words, the legal right to file a Pennsylvania Custody Complaint.  Biological and adoptive parents (as well as grandparents in some situations) have standing to pursue custody rights because of their legal relationship to the minor children.  If a same-sex couple is married and completed a step-parent adoption, both same-sex parents have standing to pursue a custody action in Pennsylvania.

If the same-sex couple is not married but have raised a child together, questions can arise as to whether the non-biological partner may exercise rights regarding the child when he or she has not adopted the partner’s minor children. In this circumstance, the threshold question for the Family Courts is whether the non-biological parent acted like a parent and should be granted standing to pursue a custody action under the in loco parentis status or, in other words, acting like a parent without formal legal rights as a parent.  The non-biological parent who has acted like a parent to the minor children by providing emotional and financial support can be deemed to standin loco parentis to the minor children.

However, the former partner who seeks to establish their rights regarding the minor children of the biological parent must be aware that with the establishment of custody rights may come the obligation of financial support. Pennsylvania law has confirmed that the former partner who has established the in loco parentis status may owe an obligation for child support.

Contact our Pittsburgh Same-Sex Couples Lawyers

Our Pennsylvania attorneys have extensive experience in providing legal assistance to LGBT individuals regarding same sex partner adoptions and other parenting relationships, as well as establishing custody rights of the former partner’s minor children.

Contact our same-sex law firm or telephone one of the following offices for a consultation about your legal rights.

Pittsburgh office at 412-281-9906

Cranberry Township office at 724-776-9906

Canonsburg office at 724-436-5500

Clearfield office at 814-290-0587

Toll free at 1-844-827-4529 (1-844-VARI-LAW)

Appointments may be available in other locations if special arrangements are made in advance with our office. Ask the secretary scheduling your appointment for details including appointment locations. Our law firm is open Monday – Friday from 8 am – 5 pm.

Our PA family law office routinely accepts cases in Allegheny CountyBeaver CountyBerks County, Butler CountyClearfield County, Lawrence CountyMercer CountyWashington County, and Westmoreland County. We accept cases in other PA counties such as Armstrong County, Erie County, Fayette County, Greene County, Somerset County and Venango County on a case-by-case basis.