The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a stepfather who sought child custody of his ex-wife’s children can be liable for child support payments. The court ruled by a 3-1 margin that a stepparent who pursues the legal rights of a biological parent must also assume financial responsibilities for the children. The court’s decision in the child custody overturns a Superior Court ruling that claimed that the stepfather had “not held himself out as their father” and did not owe his ex-wife any child support payments.
Details of Child Custody Case
The child custody case involves Avraham and Irena Shiloh. Mrs. Shiloh gave birth to twins in her native Serbia in 1998. She married Mr. Shiloh in 2005 in Serbia, and the couple moved to Pennsylvania. In 2009, the couple separated. Mrs. Shiloh graduated from law school in 2012 and took the bar exam in California, where she intended to relocate with her children. Mr. Shiloh filed an emergency child custody order to prevent his ex-wife from moving across the country with the children.
Child Custody Case Examines “In Loco Parentis” Rule
The court’s decision revolved around the rule of law known as “in loco parentis.” When an individual takes on the responsibilities of a parent, without either a biological or adoptive relationship to the child, that person gains the status of “in loco parentis.” Mr. Shiloh declared himself “in loco parentis” in his attempt to prevent his ex-wife’s relocation. A court ruled in Mr. Shiloh’s favor and blocked his ex-wife’s move to California until the child custody case could be resolved.
Child Custody Case Sparks Child Support Dispute
During their divorce proceedings, the family law court dismissed Mrs. Shiloh’s request for child support payments. When Mr. Shiloh pursued his child custody case against his ex-wife, she filed another complaint seeking child support. The lower court ruled that, since Mr. Shiloh was not the children’s biological father, he was not obligated to pay child support. Mrs. Shiloh appealed the decision to the state Superior Court, which upheld the lower court decision. The Superior Court ruled that Mr. Shiloh had not “agreed to support the children financially” during the divorce.
Supreme Court Overturns Child Custody Decision
Justice Max Baer, who penned the majority opinion in the Shiloh child custody case, wrote that Mr. Shiloh’s actions were “not the ‘typical case’ of a stepparent.” Justice Baer also stated that Mr. Shiloh had been “repeatedly litigating to achieve the same legal and physical custodial rights as would naturally accrue to a biological parent.” He also wrote that Mr. Shiloh’s attempts to win the child custody case established his parental obligations to the children, including child support payments.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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