Seeking Guidance: Navigating Custody Challenges for Blended Family

I (dad) entered a relationship with a woman (Mom) who had a 1-year-old son and assumed the father role from the very beginning. One year later, we had a son together. We were together until the boys were 5 and 7, at which time we separated. Mom moved to Wilmington, Delaware, while I stayed in Philadelphia, PA. Eventually, I bought a home and got married in Philadelphia.

For the first 3.5 years, the boys went to school in Delaware and came to me on weekends, with summers split 50/50. During this time, we had a custody agreement drafted in Wilmington Family Court through mediation, but only our second son was listed, as I am not the biological father of our oldest son.

In the summer of 2023, we collectively (mom, myself, and my wife) decided that the boys would benefit from moving back to PA, being with their younger siblings, and attending school here with us, essentially reversing the custody arrangement we had been following.

Now that the boys have primarily been living in Philadelphia, we decided to file to have our custody case registered in PA and modified for legal purposes. However, during mediation scheduled for 5/9, we encountered complications. Philadelphia will not accept our case until it is modified in Delaware. The attorney at mediation informed us that filing for "in loco parentis" would not suffice for our first son.

Upon contacting Wilmington Family Court, we received conflicting advice from different individuals. One suggested that Philly needs to handle it, while another indicated adoption might be the solution for the first son. The final person advised us to seek legal counsel due to the complexity of the situation.

Both households agree on the desired outcome: legally establishing dad's status as the father so that our oldest son isn't merely following a custody order intended for our youngest. We are not in disagreement about the custody situation's ideal resolution. However, both households face financial constraints regarding attorney fees and are unsure of the next steps.

We are seeking assistance and guidance on how to proceed in this situation, as we are currently unsure of the appropriate course of action.

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