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Pennsylvania Child Custody Issues Can Be Complex For Same-Sex Couples

By Sheryl Rentz on January 29, 2009

Same sex custody cases have been rare in Pennsylvania but they do occasionally come up from time to time. This article in the Sharon Herald talks about the one such case that has garnered public attention in Mercer County. This case involves Lisa Lewis, a non-biological parent who is seeking custody of a child she helped raise with her same-sex partner.

The article quotes former longtime Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Wherry, who says he has never had a same-sex custody case, but has dealt with non-biological parents like Lewis who seek an “in loco parentis” status for visitation and custody reasons. The term “in loco parentis” is Latin for “in the place of a parent” or “instead of a parent” and refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent. A same sex custody case would be handled the same way as when a non-biological parent would seek an “in loco parentis” status. If it is in the best interest of the child, the parent will end up getting some measure of custody but they will need the help of a skilled child custody lawyer.

The Lewis case has proven to be an even more challenging case than anticipated. According to the article, five out of 100 child custody cases may go longer than six months. But most are settled before or after just one custody hearing. But this case has gone longer because of mandatory limits on how long a custody case can proceed. The hearings have reportedly been pushed back further than the 180-day maximum under Pennsylvania law, causing Lewis to re-file her case twice. And each time, she has had to re-establish her “in loco parentis” standing.

Divorce and child custody issues are complicated even when it involves straight couples who are the biological parents. This gets even more complicated when it involves same-sex couples with an adopted child or when one of the same-sex partners is the child’s biological parent and the other is helping raise the child. It takes an experienced Pennsylvania child custody attorney to guide you through the legal process and protect your rights. If you are facing divorce or child custody issues, please call Philadelphia child custody lawyer Sheryl R. Rentz at 610-645-0100 for a free consultation and case evaluation.

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