Modern family units come in a variety of forms. These days, it is quite common for stepparents to form strong bonds with children who are not biologically related to them. Many California residents who are considering divorce may find themselves in the positions of having to negotiate child support payments; however, a recent case raised questions over whether stepparents should also be found liable in certain circumstances.
A couple, who was married in Serbia in 2005 shortly before moving to Pennsylvania, separated in 2009. The woman already had twins who were born in Serbia in 1998. She studied law, graduated in 2012 and made plans to relocate to California with her children after passing the state’s bar exam. Information about the children’s biological father was not included in the report.
This led to a series of petitions and counteractions being filed by the two parents. The father objected to the relocation on the grounds that he stood in loco parentis, which led to his being granted partial custody and prevented the mother from removing the children from Pennsylvania. The mother filed for child support, which was denied on the grounds that the father was not the biological parent and, therefore, was not liable for financial support. It was later decided that, because the father had shown such tenacity in relation to custody, he had manufactured a parental obligation for the children, and the court ruled that this was an unusual case that did not resemble the usual requests for continued relationships between stepparents and children.
Cases like this are far from becoming the norm; however, this particular case shows that child support can be quite complex. It may be argued that in order to have parental rights, one should shoulder commensurate responsibilities. It is likely to be difficult in many cases to determine the point at which the relationship balance tips. Seeking advice appropriate to one’s circumstances will assist in making adequate provisions for one’s dependents, while allowing legal boundaries to be clearly defined
Source: post-gazette.com, “Pennsylvania Supreme Court holds stepfather liable for child support“, Max Mitchell, Jan. 12, 2016