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In Loco Parentis and Child Support in Pennsylvania

Here’s an interesting fact: In Pennsylvania, the person standing in loco parentis does not have a legal financial obligation to raise that child. We are called “caretakers”. What this means is that your earnings are not calculated into the equation for determining the financial obligations of all the parties. Your financial obligation is automatically calculated at $0.00.

Mother and Father are sued individually, which is another bonus. So when the court compared wages between Father and me, he had 100% responsibility, and I had none. When the court compared wages between Mother and me, she had 100% responsibility, and I had none. It was not divided between them at 50% each. The financial responsibility was assessed based on the individual biological parents’ earnings, with a financial responsibility of 100%, and not based on the fact that another parent would also be obligated at 100%. Cha-ching!

Some Other Things to Know

The court papers will tell you that you must have your financial records and expenses prepared for the court to review. This is standard documentation that they send to everyone. They do not provide caretakers with different forms, even though the rules for caretakers are very different from the biological parents (this might also apply to adoptive parents). I spent a lot of time organizing and printing out pay stubs and outlining my expenses, but in the end, they wouldn’t look at any of them because of my legal role in Matthew’s life. Caretakers have no legal financial obligation in child support hearings. I’m not going to tell you not to be prepared, but it’s good to know these things up front.

Even if you file the paperwork against both parents at the same time, these will be considered separate filings by the court. Don’t be surprised if the hearing date for both parents is on the same day at the same time. After you file the paperwork, the court will send you different paperwork to serve individually and it will show that you are the plaintiff and each parent, individually, is the defendant. You’ll get two sets of this paperwork for this reason. When you get to court they will separate the parents and you will be in a small room with only one of them at a time when it comes to determining their individual financial obligations.


Before you get in front of a judge, you can negotiate everything. You can ask for more, you can agree to less. I strongly encourage you to walk in knowing the dollar amount you are willing to accept. Make sure you address medical liabilities in the support order. These can be divided between the parents, or you can agree to cover some of the expenses (you choose to pay nothing or you can show your willingness to cooperate to a degree by capping your medical bill/copay obligations to $100 - $500 per calendar year and have the rest divided between the biological parents). Note: If you agree to take less than the court-determined “guidelines”, they will make a special note of that. This may help your arguments in custody hearings and it will certainly show that you are willing to work with the biological parents in this regard. If you need more than the guidelines and the biological parents are not willing to pay it, you will likely need to show proof of expenses, and you will likely go in front of a judge.

Why I Decided to File

Many acting parents agree to take care of a child because the biological parents are facing financial difficulties. It’s an act of love and genuine concern. That is often the root of the problems, and we accept that because we’re not in it for the money. The truth is that raising children is expensive - they need lots of things, you lose work time when they’re sick or have to go to extra parent-teacher meetings or doctor’s appointments. That said, when the biological parents are working, it seems only right that they should throw you a few bucks to help out with the expenses, but that’s not always how it works. I’ve been struggling to carry the majority of the financial load for my child, and Matthew’s father gives me money every once in a while. It’s never anything I can count on. Matthew’s mother will not chip in on something as inexpensive as undies even though she works full time. I guess after hearing about new cars, big screen TVs, new furniture, computers, and other electronics, I got fed up hearing how they didn’t have anything left over to help support Matthew. I asked for less than $50 from one of the parents and was refused, yet continued to hear about purchases of new electronics and other luxury items on a regular basis. So I took them both to court for child support and held them both accountable. I think that’s the way it should be.

2 Responses to “In Loco Parentis and Child Support in Pennsylvania”

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Standing in place of the parent, or acting parent, or "in loco parentis" is a big job that comes with a unique set challenges. I created this blog to share my story and my experiences with those who find themselves in a similiar situation. I look forward to hearing your comments!

The expenses do add up, so if you’d like to pitch in, please feel free to donate a few bucks. I really appreciate your generosity!