Does Marriage Provide Legal Parentage for Same Sex Couples?


In Pennsylvania, when a married woman gives birth to a child, it is presumed that the woman’s husband is the child’s father by way of their marriage. Now that same sex couples can marry in Pennsylvania and across the country, does the same presumption of parentage apply to married same sex couples? Because the law is silent and the issue has yet to be addressed by Pennsylvania Courts, there is no definitive answer to this question.

Gay or lesbian parents may be able to attempt to establish parentage of the children through marriage by the presumption of parentage of a child born or conceived during the course of a marriage, however this may not allot full protection for the non-biological spouse. For example, the Department of Health may issue a birth certificate with the married couple’s names on it, but since this is an administrative document and not a Court Order, an adoption is still recommended for absolute protection.

Pennsylvania provides different options for same-sex couples to create a legal parent and child relationship based on the couple’s marital status. Married same-sex couples can file a step-parent adoption, which allows a parent to adopt their spouse’s child. Pennsylvania also recognizes second-parent adoptions for unmarried same-sex couples. Second-parent adoptions allow for the adoption of a child by the unmarried partner of a biological parent, without terminating the parental rights of the biological parent. Both of these options provide for the rights and benefits associated with a parent/child relationship, such as inheritance, physical and legal custody, and child support.


If you or someone you know has a custody or adoption issue, our experienced attorneys can help. For assistance, click or call 610-892-3877


About the author

About Jennifer Lemanowicz

Jennifer attended College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, before being awarded a Merit Scholarship to Widener University School of Law. Following law school, Jennifer worked for a general practice firm where she gained experience in a variety of legal areas, including family law, non-profit law, and estate planning and administration. Jennifer joined LaMonaca Law as an associate in 2015, and concentrates her practice on matters of family law, including all aspects of divorce, support and custody proceedings. Jennifer is a whiz with a spreadsheet and is a member of the firm’s Forensic Support Team, which specializes in cases involving high value assets or complex marital estates. Jennifer is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, as well as the Montgomery County and Delaware County Bar Associations, and she was recently recognized as a “Best Lawyer” by the Delaware County Daily Times. Outside of work, Jennifer enjoys listening to true crime podcasts, going out to eat with friends, and spending time with her family.