A court decision in Pennsylvania will not directly affect the law here in New York State, but it could influence a judge’s reasoning someday. At the very least, the outcome of this case could be food for thought for parents and stepparents in Buffalo.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that the former stepfather of twin boys can be ordered to pay child support, because he had previously sought custody of the children. The court reasoned that the ex-stepfather had to accept the obligations of having parental rights, along with enjoying the benefits.
The boys were born in Serbia in 1998. It is not clear from an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette if they and their mother were living in the U.S. prior to her marriage to the stepfather in 2005, but all three relocated to Pennsylvania that year to live with him.
The marriage ended around 2009. Three years later, the mother graduated from law school and passed the California bar exam. When the stepfather learned that she planned to move there with her sons, he went to court to prevent the move and to gain partial child custody, which the judge granted.
In reaction, the mother petitioned to have the ex-stepfather pay child support. The man objected, and the court dismissed the complaint, but the mother appealed and the appellate court ruled for the mother.
The state Supreme Court affirmed the appellate decision by a 3-1 vote. The court reasoned that the ex-stepfather had taken affirmative steps to obtain parental rights, which also created parental obligations toward the boys.