Live-in partner is awarded partial custody of child

A mother’s live-in romantic partner who developed a strong relationship with her child can get partial custody of the child after their breakup, a Pennsylvania court recently decided.

The mother gave birth to the child in 2007 and quickly separated from the child’s father. She then began a relationship with a woman known as C.B.

C.B. became very involved in the child’s life, participating in his medical appointments, helping select his schools, and communicating with his teachers and doc- tors. The child also had a close relationship with C.B.’s extended family, referring to her father as “Pappy” and her siblings as “aunt” and “uncle.” C.B.’s family members babysat the child, and C.B.’s mother was the child’s emergency contact.

The couple separated after four years, but C.B. continued looking after the child one night a week and every other weekend.

The mother then married a man and cut off C.B.’s relationship to the child. So C.B. went to court.

The mother argued that C.B. had no right to custody because she wasn’t the child’s parent or relative. But the court nevertheless gave C.B. partial custody for one weekend a month, gradually phasing it down to one day per month.

The court said that while a parent’s wishes should generally be honored, this case was different because

C.B. had strong bonds to the child, had lived with him and provided care and affection, and had been seen as a parent in the child’s eyes.

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