A.S. v. I.S. (majority)Annotate this Case
Appellant, I.S. (“Mother”), had twin sons born in Serbia in 1998. In 2005, Mother married Appellee, A.S. (“Stepfather”) in Serbia and subsequently the family relocated to Pennsylvania. The parties and the children resided together until 2009 when the parties separated. Following their separation, Mother and Stepfather informally shared physical custody of the children, who were about eleven years of age. In 2010, Stepfather filed for divorce. Mother graduated from law school in May 2012 and took the California bar examination in July 2012, planning to relocate to California with the children at the end of September that year. In August 2012, Stepfather filed a complaint for custody of the children and an emergency petition to prevent Mother’s relocation, asserting that he stood in loco parentis to the children. In 2013, the trial court held a hearing on Mother’s various preliminary motions seeking to dismiss Stepfather’s complaint for custody for lack of standing. The trial court concluded that Stepfather indeed stood in loco parentis to the children, and therefore it denied Mother’s motions. The case proceeded to a full custody hearing. Mother filed a complaint for child support against Stepfather. Following a support conference on March 4, 2013, a support master dismissed Mother’s complaint reasoning that Stepfather owed no duty to support the children because he was not their biological father. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review to determine whether a stepparent could be obligated to pay child support for his former spouse’s biological children when he aggressively litigated for shared legal and physical custody of those children, including the filing of an action to prevent his former spouse from relocating with them. The Court held that we hold that when a stepparent takes affirmative legal steps to assume the same parental rights as a biological parent, the stepparent likewise assumes parental obligations, such as the payment of child support.