A hotly debated, and often scrutinized, issue in Pennsylvania child custody law is standing in custody awards to third parties when a biological parent is a litigant. Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed the issue of standing between same-sex partners in the case of C.G. v. J.H., 193 A.3d 891 (Pa. 2018). In that case, a same-sex unmarried former partner was denied standing in a custody action. In the recent Pennsylvania Superior Court case of RL v. MA, 209 A.3d 391 (Pa. Super. 2019), a same-sex partner was granted equal physical custody of the child at issue.
The pertinent facts of the RL case are as follows: MA (the biological mother) and RL (the nonbiological mother) are the parents of VL (the child). While the parties were in a romantic relationship in 2012, they decided to conceive a child by impregnating MA with the sperm of RL’s brother. According to the opinion: “the couple planned and prepared for child’s birth together, including decorating a nursery and shopping for baby supplies. RL was present at child’s birth, RL chose the child’s first name, and the couple decided together to give the child RL’s surname.” Not long after the child was born, the parties separated.