Establishing parentage or paternity in Pennsylvania can protect both your rights as a parent if a dispute arises, and your child’s entitlement to benefits such as military benefits, Social Security and other child privileges.
As the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union explains, understanding state law can preempt a situation where you lose custody over a legal distinction or face the loss of your parent-child rights.
Can same-sex couples establish paternity?
While Pennsylvania traditionally calls this process “paternity,” the same laws may apply to same-sex couples seeking parentage; however, it is generally a good idea to take extra steps to protect your rights before a dispute arises. In fact, any time parentage could be in dispute, whether you are same-sex or heterosexual parents, establishing legal parentage could make all the difference in your case.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health now offers same-sex couples the ability to have both of their names on a birth certificate. This may help parents claim their rights in some cases; however, should a dispute arise, there is insufficient legal precedent to trust that this will be enough. It is possible that the result may rest on whether you can pass a biological paternity or parentage test, or it may rest on the discretion of a court. As a result, many same-sex couples decide to take extra measures to establish legal parentage.
How can couples establish parentage?
The law may already assume that you are a parent in some cases. Married couples and traditional couples generally receive the assumption of parentage, and similarly, if you have acted as a father or mother to the child and cared for the child for a long period of time, the law may already assume you to be the parent.
However, it is generally a good idea to get a court order confirming this. You may obtain this court order if you pass a valid biological parentage test after a dispute. You may also file an Acknowledgment of Paternity with the other parent in some cases.
However, for most same-sex couples, it is a good idea to preemptively seek a formal adoption. Adoptive parents receive all of the same legal rights and protections under the law as biological parents, so adoption is typically the most sound method.
Legally-established paternity or parentage will ensure that there are no grounds for the other parent or another party to challenge your rights.