What Happens to Step-Siblings in PA Child Custody Proceedings?

Posted by Joseph Lento | Dec 06, 2019 | 0 Comments

Family life is changing. According to an article by the Pew Research Center, 16% of children in the United States are a part of what is known as “blended families” - a household with a step-parent, step-sibling, or half-sibling.

When two people marry and both have children from previous relationships, their children become step-siblings. Step-siblings are capable of growing very strong bonds, and many of them do. They live together, grow up together, depend on each other, make inside jokes, and become best friends. The large number of blended families across the country is a testament to the fact that the step-sibling relationship isn't any less real or stronger than the relationship between biological siblings. 

So, when a blended family falls apart due to divorce, what happens to the step-siblings? Every situation is different. Unfortunately, it isn't unheard of for Pennsylvania courts to decide that split custody is the ideal agreement for parents of blended families. This ruling dictates that the children are to reside with their own respective biological parents after a divorce, which could ultimately result in the end of a relationship between step-siblings. A split custody agreement is reached in some cases despite evidence that concludes there are advantages to keeping bonded step-siblings together. In fact, experts have concluded that to cope in the midst of a family crisis, step-siblings tend to depend on each other for emotional support, even when their parents are at odds. 

However, some Pennsylvania courts choose to treat all siblings equally in terms of the interest of keeping siblings together. Many judges believe that siblings, whether full or step-siblings, should only be separated for compelling reasons. In this case, decisions made about parenting plans and time-sharing schedules will be based on the children's best interests. Specifically, the custody statute says that the court must consider all the factors “affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family…” including, but not limited to, a list of several factors.

Of these enumerated factors, some lend themselves to consideration of step-sibling relationships: 

  • The child's home history
  • The child's maturity and preference
  • How long the child has been in a stable environment and whether continuity is desired
  • Any other relevant factor

In most custody cases involving step-children, to determine what's in their best interest is to consider the impact of a decision on the relationships of a child with his or her step-siblings. In fact, if parents are in a dispute about whether one can relocate with the child, a relevant factor that can be considered by a judge is the child's relationship with the people who would be left behind, including siblings, step-siblings, and other significant persons in the child's life.

Pennsylvania Child Custody Attorney

If you're involved in a child custody proceeding, it's important you retain legal counsel from an attorney who knows their stuff. Our Family Law Team has helped parents from across the state score an agreement that includes their contributions, protects their parental rights, and most importantly, reflects the best interest of the child. For more information about our Family Law Team's representation, contact the LLF Law Firm today online or by phone at 888-535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact a skilled Family Law Team Today!

The LLF Law Firm has unparalleled 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. Our Family Law Team will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.