In 1998, a woman gave birth to twins in Serbia. She married a man in 2005 and then relocated to Pennsylvania. The couple separated in 2009. The woman wanted to relocate to California, but the stepfather filed a complaint for an emergency petition to prevent the relocation. He wanted custody of the twins, as he believed he was “loco parentis.” This means that even though the children were not adopted, he had assumed parental obligations.

The court ruled that the mother could not relocate and gave the stepfather partial custody. The mother filed for child support, but the court said that since the man was not the children’s biological father, the stepfather didn’t owe child support. The woman appealed. A panel of superior court judges affirmed the lower court’s decision. The woman appealed again and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard the case.

The ruling sai that the stepfather did have parental obligations because he had taken legal steps to obtain parental rights. The ruling, 3-1, will have a significant impact on those stepparents, biological parents and child support. It could even be used as an argument that a stepparent should be paid child support from a child’s biological parent.

This is an interesting ruling and one that might spread to other states. Child support can be a very contentious matter in a divorce or child custody matter. It’s important to know whether the law is behind you, whether you are seeking child support or will be the one to pay. An attorney can provide more information so that you can fight for what you deserve.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Pennsylvania Supreme Court holds stepfather liable for child support,” Max Mitchell, Jan. 12, 2016