In Pennsylvania, a parent of a minor child may file an
action for physical and/or legal custody of the child. In certain circumstances, this right is also extended
to grandparents and third parties who stand in
loco parentis to the child. Therefore,
though it is presumed the parent has a right to custody, it may be forfeited
if, by convincing evidence, the best interest of the child is served by
awarding custody to a third party.
A person who stands in
loco parentis has created a parent-like relationship to the child
sufficient to warrant providing that individual the right to seek continued
contact with the child. This status can
be conferred upon any third party, including, but not limited to, current or
ex-spouses or partners, friends, siblings, and distant relatives. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the case of
T.B. v. L.R.M. provided a succinct definition of how a third party may
establish a parent-like relationship:
These are the powerful, haunting words spoken by the aunt of Kayden Mancuso, a 7-year old child who was brutally bludgeoned to death by her Father, Jeffery Mancuso, on August 6, 2018, only a few short months after her Father was awarded partial, unsupervised custody pursuant to a Court Order entered May 21, 2018. Unfortunately, Kayden’s death was not the first, nor the last, to occur at the hands of a parent where warning signs were present. But it was Kayden’s death which spurred the introduction of SB 868, also known as “Kayden’s Law.” In order to understand how we got here, and why changes to our law are necessary, we must review the custody analysis in Pennsylvania and how Kayden’s custody order was a legally-sound result of insufficient legislation.
Jennifer Brandt, chair of the firm’s Family Law Practice, was a guest on Court TV discussing Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell and her missing children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, the Cleveland cold case mystery, and Juan Martinez’s appeal to get his job back with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Jennifer Brandt appeared on Court TV discussing three top of the news cases: Bodycam shows Gilbert Police interview Lori Vallow after husband tried to get her mentally evaluated; Chicago’s County Jail Is Facing The U.S.’ Worst COVID-19 Outbreak; and Paul Hildwin now free after spending 28 years on death row for a Florida murder. Jennifer even spent some time talking about Tiger King.
In the midst of this pandemic, many are speculating that the aftermath will result in a baby boom or a rise in the number of divorces. Perhaps there will be a bit of both. It is undisputed that there are typically an influx of divorce cases after the holidays and summer break because these are times when people spend a lot of time together, after which, they may realize that their relationship is not working. With the outbreak of COVID 19 and people being forced to shelter at home, many couples are similarly recognizing that they cannot continue in their present relationship. People are reflecting on their lives and are deciding to make changes.
A prior post addressed, five tips to consider before filing a divorce generally. While these tips are still applicable, given the current situation with couples being forced to stay and work at home, added financial pressures, and many courts being temporarily closed or operating on a limited basis, there are some additional considerations that are now appropriate for those contemplating divorce now or in the future:
Brandt, chair of the firm’s Family Law Practice, was featured on the KYW
Newsradio podcast segment titled, “Navigating custody and family court
issues during the coronavirus pandemic.” She discusses how court systems are
operating, and answers questions to concerns regarding custody agreements
during this time.
The Family Law Focus blog provides highlights, updates and insights on complex family disputes including divorce, division of property, and alimony; child and spousal support; child custody; domestic violence; pre- and post-nuptial agreements; name changes; and adoption or termination of parental rights.
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Attorney Jennifer A. Brandt, chair of Cozen O'Connor's Family Law practice, has represented a wide variety of clients in hundreds of family law cases in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Jennifer is a regular legal commentator on national and local television outlets such as CNN, Fox New Network, HLN, MSNBC, Fox29, ABC News, NBC and CBS and frequently writes and contributes to articles in numerous publications, including the Huffington Post, Fox Business.com, The PhiIly Post, Avvo.com, Allparenting.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Business Journal, the National Law Journal, and Main Line Today magazine.
This Blog/Website is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.