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Can Pennsylvania Stepparents Ever Be Required to Pay Child Support?

Pennsylvania courts favor child custody and support arrangements that are reached without judicial intervention, but things don’t always turn out that way. The process of determining custody and child support terms can develop into a prolonged legal dispute, made even more complex if stepchildren are involved. For example, the case of Shiloh v. Shiloh (2015) went all the way up to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and resulted in a ruling that required a stepparent to pay child support just as a biological parent would have had to in the situation.

In the Shiloh case, Irena Shiloh gave birth to twins in Serbia in 1998. Seven years later, she married Avraham Shiloh, and he became the twins’ stepfather. The couple relocated to Pennsylvania and then separated in 2009. After 2012, Irena decided to move to California and take the twins with her. Avraham, the stepfather, filed both a complaint for custody and an emergency petition to prevent Irena from moving out of state with the twins. The court granted the stepfather partial custody and Irena was prevented from leaving the jurisdiction with her children.

Irena then filed a child support complaint against Avraham, but it was dismissed because the court held that as a stepfather Avraham did not owe a duty of child support to the twins. Irena appealed the decision, but the Pennsylvania Superior Court panel reaffirmed it, stating that the stepfather neither “held himself out as their father” nor “agreed to support the children financially.” Irena appealed again, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted the case.

This time, the state’s Supreme Court decided 3-1 to reverse both the trial court’s ruling and the affirming decision made by the Superior Court. The court based its determination on the aggressive legal steps the stepfather had taken to obtain the same legal parental rights as a biological parent. By seeking these parental rights, he also assumed parental obligations such as providing for child support. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in Shiloh paved the way for stepparents in certain cases to be required to provide child support for a stepchild just as a biological parent would.

Feldstein Grinberg Lang & McKee, P.C. can help if you are either a stepparent or a biological parent and you are seeking custody, visitation rights, or child support. You don’t have to go through the legal process alone. An experienced divorce and custody attorney can assist you in achieving your aims. Call 412-301-7395 or contact us online to learn how we can help.

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