In Loco Parentis

In loco parentis is a Latin phrase that translates to "in the place of a parent." It is a legal doctrine that applies in situations where an adult, who is not the natural parent of a child, steps in to assume parental responsibilities. This doctrine can apply to a number of situations, such as when another family member acts as a guardian, or when a teacher makes decisions that affect a student. In loco parentis can also come into play when discussing the role that a child's grandparents can play in their life. A majority of cases that involve in loco parentis deal with grandparents taking care of a child, or absent parents.

Situations That Can Be Considered In Loco Parentis

There are many situations where a person or persons can be considered to be acting in loco parentis. Some of these situations include:

  • Grandparents that take care of a child while the parent is away for long periods of time
  • Household family members, such as older siblings, that are old enough to have taken care of the children in the absence of parents
  • Extended family members, such as aunts or uncles who have cared for a child
  • Non-family members, such as neighbors, teachers, etc, that can demonstrate through evidence in some way that they have cared for the child for extended periods of time

Applying For Custody Through In Loco Parentis

In Loco Parentis can be used as the grounds for petitioning the court for custody rights. If a person (including grandparents) can show the court that they have acted as a parental figure for the child, they may apply for custody on the grounds of in loco parentis. However, much like any custody arrangements, certain restrictions apply when going through the process. In order to file for custody on the grounds of in loco parentis:

  • A person acting in loco parentis must have lived with the child for over 6 months before filing for some form of custody.
  • Grandparents can file for custody if the child has lived with them for 12 months, and the parents have taken the child back into their custody

As usual, in determining any custody arrangements, the judge will always decide based upon what the evidence shows to be the best interest of the child. It should be noted that filing for in loco parentis custody is not the same as adoption. Instead it grants certain custody privileges, but does not come with all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. Taking custody through this manner may be a first step to adoption, or it can simply help to guarantee a relationship between a child and grandparents.

Family Law, and in particular, cases involving the doctrine of in loco parentis can be complex. The court tries to ensure that every decision is made in the best interest of the child, however, the court also believes that the parental rights of natural parents should be preserved if at all possible. This can complicate matters for individuals seeking custody through in loco parentis.

Every situation is different. The law provides a basic framework for how to handle certain circumstances, however, when a case comes up in court, there is no telling what will happen. For this reason, having an experienced Family Law attorney at your side in the courtroom can greatly influence the outcome. If you or a loved one is currently engaged in matters of family law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in Pennsylvania. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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