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In Loco Parentis - The Law in PA

For those standing in place of the parent, or “in loco parentis”, you can pursue legal custody rights after the child lives with you for a minimum of six (6) months.

I strongly encourage you to keep a journal from the first day your child moves in with you. Document everything. In the case that the child moves back with his or her biological parents, they will appreciate (or need) the documentation. In the case where the parents act like buffoons, you may need the documentation. No matter what, it WILL come in handy. Save all written agreements and relevant emails. Print them out and keep them in one place. You never know when you’ll need them and it only takes a minute or two to keep up with it on a regular basis. If you didn’t start this from the first day, start RIGHT NOW.

If anyone needs to set up a spreadsheet that can be used in court later, please let me know. I’ll be happy to share my format with you.

The law in Pennsylvania regarding custody is quite clear, and like all things, can get quite muddled in court. We are a “best interest of the child” state. There have been several cases relating to folks standing in loco parentis, including Jones vs. Jones where the lesbian non-biological mother was awarded custody in 2006. There have been others too, including a step father who was awarded custody after the mother died and the biological father decided to come forward, albeit, a tad late. All cases are decided on their own merits, so the information you bring to the table (court) will be considered in terms of the best interest of the child. It took 8 months from the day the court recognized me as standing in loco parentis for the judge to acknowledge out loud that it was an usual case in that I am not Matthew’s biological parent, or even *gasp* a biological relative. How can it be that a non-biological parent could take better care of a child? It’s just unfathomable! The notion (that only biologically-related individuals can best care for a child) itself is quite absurd in my opinion. Maybe because I’ve seen that in some cases, the biological relationship itself plays a role in the biological parent’s mind that it’s ok to neglect your child or let some (important) things go unattended with the notions that “they’ll bounce back” or “kids are resilient” or “our DNA match will prevail” or “the mother is always the best primary caretaker”. Not one of these standards of thinking applies to Matthew’s situation. The notion itself is paramount to treating the custody of children to the ownership of property when biology itself is granted more significance than stability, love and a nurturing environment.

Because of the biological parents’ actions toward Matthew’s, the judge has been very reluctant to remove him from my home. It’s been nearly a year and a half since the Mother first filed for custody, and we still haven’t had the trial, which is set for after Matthew completes the school year. Hurray for small victories. My task, as it is now, is to continue taking care of Matthew, and put together a map to show how I have come to be the caretaker who best meets Matthew’s best interests. Because Matthew does have special needs (due to his biological parent’s previous actions), the judge has also acknowledged that she would prefer we work out the custody among ourselves primarily because, as she said, she will never know him like we do. And that’s true, she won’t ever know him or love him beyond a quick visit to the courtroom that will essentially be heartbreaking to watch and devastating for Matthew that could come back to haunt him (via his parents) for the rest of his life. Why on earth do they make young children go through this I will never know. They have no sense of the pain and suffering they are inflicting when they force kids to testify as to who they want to live with and yet hide behind the “best interest of the child” law that does not state that children should be forced to go to court, take an oath on a bible, and tear apart their loyalties to the people they love the most.

One Response to “In Loco Parentis - The Law in PA”

  1. donna schmitz Says:

    My husband, Kenny and I were awarded in loco parentis and custody of my biological grandchild (my husband is a step grandfather). The child was one month shy of his 6th birthday when the decision was made in May of 2009. The child, riley has lived with us ever since he has been born with the exception of 6 weeks of his life. All his insurance and financial needs have always been meet by my self and my husband. Basically, my daughter was too busy having fun. She moved to D.C. (we live in Mississippi), she took the child with her but brought him back after 6 weeks. She finally meet a man who wanted a child and then she decided she wanted to be a mother after 6 years. She has appealled the case. I am so worried.

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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!