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Pennsylvania Adoption for Same-Sex Married Couples FAQ

My wife and I are having a child using a sperm donor. My wife will give birth to our child. At the hospital, will we be able to put both of our names on the birth certificate?


Yes. At the time of the birth of your child, you will have to complete forms at the hospital or birth center in order to receive a birth certificate for your child. If you have a same-sex marriage from Pennsylvania or another jurisdiction, you may list yourself as “married” on any forms. As of July 2015, the Department of Health will issue the original birth certificate in the maiden name of the birth mother and will list the birth mother’s spouse as “Parent/Father”.


Will a birth certificate issued in the names of a married couple confer parental rights even if one parent is not genetically related to the child?


No. Even if a child born to married same-sex spouses will be able to have both spouses’ names appear on the original birth certificate as parents, this does not constitute a legal finding of parental rights. Therefore, a birth certificate alone leaves the child and the parents vulnerable in a number of areas and circumstances.


Is it necessary for me to adopt a child born to my spouse to create parental rights?


Yes. There is no parentage statute in Pennsylvania for children conceived through assisted reproduction that conclusively secures a legal parent-child relationship between a non-biological parent and the child. Without an adoption (or, in some cases, a pre-birth order), the non-biological parent’s rights could be successfully challenged. Pennsylvania, like every state in the U.S., must recognize an adoption decree.


How do I adopt a child born to my spouse?


Step-parent adoption is the adoption of a spouse’s child. Pennsylvania will allow a parent to adopt their same-sex spouse’s child and this adoption will be recognized in every state regardless of whether the state would have allowed the adoption to be completed within its borders.

Once the adoption is complete, the adoptive parent will have exactly the same rights as the biological parent. The step-parent adoption creates a legal parent-child relationship with the second parent, bringing with it hundreds of rights and benefits including inheritance, custody, child support and medical decision-making.


Do we need to complete a home study for a step-parent adoption if we are married?


No. You should not need to complete a home study if you are adopting the child of your spouse. However, it may take some time for court procedures to catch up with the new law. Therefore, it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with the practice of step-parent adoptions in the county where you will be filing.


If we are married, can we claim the Adoption Tax Credit for our step-parent adoption fees and costs?


No. If you are married, you will not qualify for the Adoption Tax Credit for a step-parent adoption. If you are not married, you may claim the Adoption Tax Credit for fees and costs related to a second-parent adoption, provided you qualify under the income threshold.

The Adoption Tax Credit is available to qualifying couples who adopt through an agency adoption, independent adoption or foster care adoption, regardless of marital status.

Can we adopt jointly if we are unmarried?


Yes. Unmarried couples may adopt jointly (through an agency adoption, independent adoption or foster care adoption). Pennsylvania law has permitted joint adoption by a couple regardless of marital status since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling on second-parent adoption in 2002. Therefore, the same-sex marriage ruling does not change anything with respect to joint adoption.