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Birth certificate may not grant child custody

Although, marriage equality rights have increased in Pennsylvania, same-sex couples seeking parentage of their children still face many obstacles. While the names of both parents may appear on the birth certificate, there is no guarantee that LGBTQ parents possess parental rights. They may later face problems seeking child custody, making medical decisions and other important matters.

Same-sex parents can list both of their names on the child's birth certificate. Since July 2015, the state Department of Health began issuing original birth certificates in the name of the birth mother and lists the spouse as the parent/father.

However, legal parentage is not based solely on the names placed on the birth certificate. Additionally, Pennsylvania law does not govern children who are born through assisted reproductive technologies. Without this law, a legal parent-child relationship does not exist between a nonbiological parent and her child, unless there is a kinship adoption.

A parent-child relationship is vulnerable without this adoption. During divorce, the nonbirth-parent's child custody and visitation rights may be imperiled. A child's inheritance rights could be challenged when parents die.

The issuance of an adoption decree though, confers a legally valid parent-child relationship. This grants rights and responsibilities, such as medical decision-making, custody, child support and rights to inheritance. But, this process can cost up to $5,000 for LGBTQ couples throughout the United States.

But, same-sex marriage still confers many benefits upon parents. It eliminated the home-study process requiring an inspection of the couple's home and gathering financial references to verify that the couple can afford the baby. Additionally, couples can often can seek a pre-birth order in many jurisdictions that validates the legal parent-child relationship and assuring that the nonbiolgical parent becomes a legal parent when the baby is born. This process can take four to five months, if it begins after birth.

A Pennsylvania Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act has been introduced, which would eliminate many of the challenges facing nonbiological parents. Lawmakers in Ontario also drafted legislation that would give nonbiological same-sex parents the same legal rights as heterosexual parents.

A lawyer can help same-sex parents pursue their rights and make custody decisions and overcome challenges associated with the current laws in this state. Legal representation can also aid with making choices that serve the best interests of the child.

Source: The Legal Intelligencer, "A birth certificate does not equal parentage," Angela D. Giampolo, Oct. 7, 2016

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