~ IN LOCO PARENTIS ~
In in loco parentis parent is an individual who is not biologically related to their child and has assumed the obligations of a parent-child relationship without the formality of adoption. Unless both parents come to an agreement, a sustained, substantial, and sincere interest in the welfare of the child must be proven in court for an in loco parentis mother or father to receive custody rights.
In a very recent case in Pennsylvania, Jones v. Jones, an in loco parentis mother who was not a biological or adoptive parent of the biological mother’s children, was awarded legal custody and primary physical custody of the children based on the best interest of the child standard. In Jones, the biological mother continually interfered with the in loco parentis mother’s attempts at court ordered visitation with the child.
In Pennsylvania, custody is always ruled by the “best interest” standard which takes into account the child’s physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual well-being. In Jones v. Jones, the biological mother attempted to exclude the in loco parentis mother, and attempted to completely control the child’s life. The mother’s actions were found to be self-serving rather than a sincere care for the child.
A new law is currently being decided upon that would, by statute, give in loco parentis mothers and fathers the right to sue for legal and physical custody of their children. Senate Bill Number 74, among other things, defines “legal custody” and “physical custody.” Legal custody is the right to make day to day decisions for a child, such as medical, religious, and educational decisions. Physical custody is simply who has the child’s physical presence. In Pennsylvania, most parents share legal custody rights and one parent has primary physical custody and the other parent has partial physical custody/visitation rights. The new statute would allow an in loco parentis mother or father to sue in court for legal and physical custody. Prior to the new law, only the law found in cases, and not by statute, allowed for an in loco parentis mother or father to request legal custody.
The law in this Commonwealth has changed in recent times to allow for two lesbian’s to adopt together. Non-biological non-adoptive lesbian in loco parentis mothers have been required to pay support for their children. A child will not have a right to parental financial support or healthcare insurance without an in loco parentis mother having rights to custody. Clearly, having two loving and capable parents, who are required to share in the parental duties and responsibilities, is in the best interest of children.