What is the Pennsylvania approach to establishing paternity in situations involving assisted reproductive technology?

Understanding Paternity in the Context of Assisted Reproductive Technology in Pennsylvania

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has presented new frontiers for parenthood, but it has also introduced complex legal challenges, particularly in establishing paternity. Pennsylvania courts and legislature have taken specific steps to address these complexities. This article will explore the Keystone State's approach to paternity issues in the realm of ART.

Legal Framework for Establishing Paternity

In Pennsylvania, paternity is traditionally established in one of two ways: through acknowledgment of paternity or through a court order. The former involves a voluntary admission by the father, while the latter may involve genetic testing. However, when it comes to ART, these methods are not always applicable.

The Role of Consent

Pennsylvania law places significant emphasis on the consent of all parties involved in ART procedures. In cases where a child is conceived through ART with the use of donor sperm or eggs, the individual or couple who consented to the procedure and intended to raise the child are recognized as the legal parents.

For example, if a married couple decides to conceive a child via in vitro fertilization (IVF) using donor sperm due to male infertility, Pennsylvania law will recognize the husband as the legal father if he consented to the procedure and intended to raise the child.

Parentage Cases and Judicial Precedents

Pennsylvania courts have addressed various aspects of ART-related paternity. In some landmark cases, such as J.F. v. D.B., decisions have been made that highlight the importance of intent and pre-conception agreements in determining parentage. In this case, the court decided that a sperm donor was not the legal father of a child conceived through ART because there was an agreement that he would not assume parental rights or responsibilities.

Moreover, cases involving surrogacy agreements have also shaped Pennsylvania's legal landscape. The state does not have a statute that explicitly governs surrogacy; however, courts have generally upheld surrogacy agreements as long as they protect the best interests of the child and comply with other legal requirements.

The Uniform Parentage Act and Its Impact

While Pennsylvania has not adopted the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA), which is a comprehensive law designed to provide uniformity in determining parentage across states, including those involving ART, its principles still influence how some states approach these matters. The UPA recommends that a man who provides sperm for ART with the intention of being a parent should be recognized as such.

In Pennsylvania, while statutory guidance specific to ART is limited, case law often fills in gaps by considering factors such as intention and consent when determining legal parentage.


Pennsylvania's approach to establishing paternity in cases involving assisted reproductive technology hinges on consent and intent. While specific statutory provisions may be lacking, judicial decisions continue to clarify legal parentage within this evolving area. As technologies advance and family structures diversify, it's likely that further legal developments will emerge to address these intricate matters.