In the Place of a Parent: How the Courts View In Loco Parentis

How the Courts View In loco Parentis

Attorneys often speak a language that sounds foreign to many people today. Much of this legalese stems from Latin terms that represent the foundation of our modern legal codes. One of those terms can play a big role in custody cases: in loco parentis.

What does it mean to act in loco parentis?

By definition, in loco parentis means “in the place of a parent.” In Pennsylvania, the courts provide greater detail, stating that the status of in loco parentis can be granted to “one who has assumed and discharged parental duties on behalf of the child but is not a natural parent.”

In loco parentis can become a major factor in custody cases where one party, although not a biological mother or father, has played a significant role in a child’s life and wishes to ask the court for some kind of custody status. We often see it in families with stepchildren, with grandparents who are intimately involved in the care of a child, as well as between unmarried couples and same-sex couples.

What are the requirements to act in loco parentis?

It is up to the court to decide if an individual does indeed fulfill the criteria of being in loco parentis. But being given the status by the court does not guarantee or grant custody. It simply means the court has decided the individual has standing to pursue custodial rights. There are three main factors that determine if a person is adequate to act in loco parentis: the discharge of parental duties, the asumption of parental status and the consent of the parent.

Technically it is also required that the person filing to act in place of the parent must have lived with the child for over six months. If grandparents want to file for custody the child must has lived with them for 12 months before the parents have taken the child back.

Family dynamics today can be very complicated and every situation is different. If you believe you should have rights to the custody of a child, even partial custody, you need to seek the advice of legal counsel. Case law on this matter varies and the best way to ensure you are awarded in loco parentis standing and therefore have the right to pursue custody is to have us review the specifics of your situation and determine the best course of action moving forward. Call us (717) 502-5000.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About In Loco Parentis

Who has legal authority to take protective custody of a child in PA?

When authorities believe a child is being neglected or abused, a social worker or police officer can take them into protective custody.

Why is loco parentis important?

The concept has crucial importance in educational institutes: schools are required to act as responsible parents with children under their supervision and conseuquently become liable for foreseeable injuries.

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