Sunday, December 8, 2013

Jacob v. Shultz-Jacob case brief

Jacob v. Shultz-Jacob case brief summary
923 A.2d 473 (2007)

In unconsolidated appeals, appellant former life partner challenged judgments of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County and York County (Pennsylvania), which denied the partner's complaint for sole legal and physical custody of the parties' four children and which denied the partner's motion to join appellee biological father in an action for child support filed by appellee mother.

When together, the partner shared custody of the mother's adopted nephews and two children for whom the father acted as a sperm donor. When the couple broke up, the partner received primary physical custody of one nephew and partial custody of the other children, and the mother was awarded primary physical custody of the other three children. The father was also awarded partial physical custody of his children.


  • On appeal, the court found that the trial court's refusal to admit an expert report was not an error because the expert testified and the partner was offered an opportunity to recall him after the report was not admitted. 
  • The partner did not overcome the presumption in favor of custody in the biological mother. 
  • However, the trial court erred when it denied the partner's motion to join the father as an indispensible party. 
  • The partner's obligation stemmed from principles of equitable estoppel because she asserted custodial interests in the children. 
  • The father voluntarily provided some support, was involved in the children's lives, and was awarded custody. 
  • Support under equitable estoppel applied equally to the father and was in the children's best interest.
The court affirmed the award of custody, vacated the award of support, and remanded to the trial court with directions that the father be joined as an indispensable party for a hearing at which the support obligation of each litigant was to be recalculated.

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