In New Jersey, being deemed a “parent” can be more than a genetically defined role. In an effort to promote stability for children, the courts of New Jersey have joined a handful of other states in developing the concept of “psychological parentage” (akin to ” de facto” parentage in some other states.)
In V.C. v. M.J.B., 163 N.J. 200 (2000), the court determined that a person acting as a parent to a child (who was not otherwise a legal parent through birth or adoption) could be deemed equal to that child’s legal parent(s) based upon the satisfaction of four elements:
- The biological or adoptive parent consented to, and fostered, the would-be parent’s establishment of the parent-like relationship with the child
- The child resided with the would-be parent
- The would-be parent assumed the obligations of parenthood
- The would-be parent has been in a parental role for a length of time sufficient to have established with the child a bonded, dependent relationship parental in nature
The most likely circumstance where the question of psychological parentage would arise is in the context of a custody dispute. If someone who believes he or she fits the elements listed above wants to assume custody of a child, and the court agrees that the criteria were met, the would-be parent is deemed a psychological parent. That parent then stands on equal footing with the legal parent and the court must conduct a best interest evaluation as to custody.
The attorneys at Jacobs Berger, LLC, have successfully litigated many psychological parentage cases. If you have a relationship with a child that you think deems legal recognition, contact our experienced attorneys online or by calling 973-718-7705 to schedule a case assessment to discuss the various options available to you.