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Appellate Court Upholds Decision To Award Partial Child Custody To Mother’s Former Partner

May 4, 2016

by Anthony Hoover

In a non-precedential appellate decision C.B. v. L.B., a Pennsylvania appellate court held that mother’s former partner should be granted periods partial custody, one weekend per month, and eventually reducing to one Saturday per month. Although mother’s former partner was not automatically granted “standing,” the court agreed that mother’s former partner stood “in loco parentis” and had the legal right to seek custody.

The child in this matter was born in May 2007. Mother and the child’s father separated shortly after birth. Also in 2007, mother began her relationship with her partner. Mother and her partner began living together in 2008. During the course of their relationship (2008-2012) mother’s partner participated in many aspects of the child’s life, including medical appointments, medical treatment, education, and basic care. The child referred to mother’s partner as “mommy” and referred to mother’s partner’s parents as grandparents.

Mother and her partner separated in 2012. In 2013, mother married step-father. Even after separation, mother’s former partner continued to be involved in the child’s life.

In 2014, mother’s partner filed a custody action. Mother and step-father objected, and argued that mother’s former partner did not have legal “standing” to file a custody complaint.

The trial court rejected mother’s and step-father’s argument. The trial court granted mother’s former partner with custody one weekend per month and gradually phased the period of custody to one day per month.

Mother and step-father appealed the trial court’s decision, and the appellate court upheld the trial court. In support of its decision, the appellate court noted that mother’s former partner provided sufficient evidence that she acquired “in loco parentis” standing to seek custody of the child. The appellate court stated that “while it is presumed that a child’s best interest is served by maintaining the family’s privacy and autonomy, that presumption must give way where the child has established strong psychological bonds with a person” who has lived with the child and provided care, nurture, and affection, and assumed the role of a parent in the child’s eye. The appellate court also found that the gradually reduced periods of custody were a limited intrusion and sufficiently provided for the best interest of the child.