Generally, in Pennsylvania, stepparents do not have a duty to support their stepchildren. However, in the A.S. case, the stepfather was found liable because he was “relentless” in his pursuit of parental duties of the stepchildren, and after a lot of court trials obtained equal physical and legal custody of the children and convinced the court to not allow the mother to move to California with the children. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that in limited circumstances such as these, where the stepparent “instigates litigation to achieve all the rights of parenthood at the cost of interfering with the rights of a fit parent” the stepparent may have a duty to pay child support.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was clear in stating that it was not creating a broad new class of stepparent support obligors; but it is important to know that there are some situations where a stepparent may have a duty to pay child support for a stepchild, as in the A.S. case.
Child custody and divorce attorney, Michael E. Bertin is a partner at the law firm of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP. Mr. Bertin is co-author of the book Pennsylvania Child Custody Law, Practice, and Procedure. Mr. Bertin was selected by Best Lawyers in America and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a former Chair of the Family Law Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association, the current Co-Chair of its Custody Committee, and holds the officer position of Secretary of the Family Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Mr. Bertin works out of Obermayer’s Philadelphia and Conshohocken, PA offices and he can be reached at 215-665-3280 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.