To have in loco parentis standing over a child essentially means that you're acting in the place of a parent. If you have this status, you can seek child custody – but is there a difference between “caregiving” or babysitting and parenting, and can a caregiver ever obtain custody over a child? The PA Superior Court recently weighed in on this issue. Here's what they found.
The Case for In Loco Parentis Status
On April 23, 2021, the Superior Court upheld a custody decision from the Trial Court, stating that the Appellant, P.G., didn't have the in loco parentis standing to pursue custody of the child. The key facts are as follows.
Although P.G. and the child's mother were good friends and had the occasional romantic encounter, she never thought of him as a parent to her child.
For almost three years, P.G. helped the mother care for the child so she could return to work, which included two to three overnight stays each week. P.G. was authorized to take the child to doctor's appointments and he wasn't paid for the caregiving.
P.G. sought custody, arguing that he acted as a parent, not a caregiver, and that the mother treated him like a parent rather than a babysitter. In other words, he argued that he had the in loco parentis standing to pursue custody of the child.
The Trial Court upheld the mother's objections, and the Superior Court confirmed the judgment, stating that he only ever acted as a caregiver and didn't have the standing of a parent.
How the Decision Could Affect Family Courts In PA
While the Superior Court acknowledged that each case will always turn on its own facts, there must be clear evidence that you acted as a parent would, not just a babysitter, to obtain in loco parentis status.
PA family courts will now look for evidence that you discharged parental duties before they consider granting you custody, and they'll give weight to any objections from the child's natural parents.
It should be emphasized that there's no clear “test” for establishing in loco parentis, which means each case will be judged individually. A skilled PA family law attorney will help ensure your case gets the fairest possible hearing.
How Joseph Lento Can Help You With Child Custody Through In Loco Parentis
The courts will always aim to strike a balance between respecting a child's best interests and the wishes of the natural parents. In loco parentis cases can be challenging to argue in court, but your best chance of success is to ensure you have a committed and skilled lawyer like Joseph D. Lento by your side.
To ensure your voice is heard in a PA family court, give the Lento Law Firm a call today on 888-535-3686, or contact us online.