Yes you may! In NJ, biological parents have supreme custody rights over all others, including grandparents and siblings. NJ custody statute permits the Court to award custody to a non-parent over a biological parent if the non-parent can demonstrate “parental unfitness, gross misconduct, abandonment or ‘exceptional circumstances. One instance of an exceptional circumstance is what Courts refer to as a “psychological parent.” A psychological parent is someone who is not a biological parent to a child but who has acted and treated the child as if they were a biological parent.
Do I qualify as a “psychological parent”?
This issue arises most often in situations where one of the child’s biological parents are not involved in their lives and a step-parent (or longtime companion of the involved biological parent) wants to get custody upon a break-up. Simply because you were in a relationship with the child’s biological parent does not automatically qualify you to be considered a “psychological parent.” The Court considers 4 factors to determine if you qualify:
Psychological Parent Factors
Whether the biological parent consented to or foster the formation and establishment of a parent-like relationship with the child. Note: It is extremely difficult to be considered a “psychological parent” if the biological parent whom you were in a relationship with does not consent. It’s not impossible if the other factors weigh heavily in your favor but the consent of the biological parent goes a long way.
Whether the in loco parentis parent and child lived together in the same home.
Whether the in loco parentis parent assumed the obligations of parenthood by taking responsibility of the child’s care, education and development, including contribution toward support. Note: If you were simply dating the child’s parent but did not act or behave in a way essentially treating this child as your own, it is difficult to be considered a psychological parent.
Whether the in loco parentis parent has been a parental role for a length of time sufficient to have established a bonded, depended relationship with the child.
Does “psychological parent” apply to extended family, like aunt, uncles, cousins, etc?
Yes it can if the above 4 factors are satisfied.
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The contents of this blog entry are provided for informational purposes only. You should consult with an attorney to determine how the law applies to the facts of your particular case. Reading this blog entry does not create an attorney-client relationship with Kelly McGriff Law.