Custody Rights after Adoption

The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently decided a case that determined whether the ex-boyfriend of an adoptive mother had the right to file for custody of the adoptive mother’s children.

The case, E.T.S. v. S.L.H., involved an adoptive mother who was the biological maternal great-aunt of two children. The children were born in 2006 and 2007. In May 2009, the great-aunt started exercising shared legal custody of the children and in May 2011, she was granted custody as their adoptive mother.

During this time, the great-aunt’s boyfriend lived with her and spent considerable time with the children. However, in February 2011, after the great-aunt rejected her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, the boyfriend moved out.

In June 2011, the boyfriend filed a complaint seeking shared custody of the children. He asserted in loco parentis standing based on he time he spent with the children while he lived with their adoptive mother.

The trial court held that the boyfriend lacked standing to file for custody, and the Superior Court upheld this ruling after the boyfriend appealed. The court held that Section 5326 of Pennsylvania’s Child Custody Act terminates any custody rights granted prior to a child’s adoption, unless a stepparent, grandparent or great-grandparent adopted the child.

Because in this case the children’s great-aunt adopted them, the exception did not apply and any custody rights the boyfriend had were terminated upon adoption. He therefore did not have standing to file for custody.

Pennsylvania’s custody laws can be complex and confusing. If you need help in your own custody or divorce case, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced family law attorneys at Sacks, Weston & Petrelli.

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