A New Jersey appellate court has determined that a person does not necessarily have to be related to a child through blood or adoption in order to have visitation rights or share in child custody. Under the psychological parent doctrine, if the court determines that the adult lived with or cared for a child for a significant amount of time, then granting visitation rights or even custody with to non-biological parent may serve the best interests of the child.

The ruling by the New Jersey appellate court was in a case in which two women had a child custody dispute after they ended their domestic partnership. They entered the domestic partnership arrangement before New Jersey legalized same-sex marriage. One of the women brought her biological child to the partnership and denied her former partner parenting time after the relationship ended. The woman who was not the child’s biological parent was denied her request for child custody by a trial court.

The purpose of the psychological parent doctrine is to prevent permanent psychological harm to a child. A child can form a bond with an adult or think of a non-related adult as a parent even if they are not related by blood or law. The psychological parent doctrine often applies to stepparents and grandparents after a divorce.

Even if a biological parent or psychological parent is not going through a divorce, he or she may wish to speak with an attorney if his or her relationship with another important adult in the child’s life changes dramatically. An attorney can discuss the psychological parent doctrine as well as many other issues related to a child custody dispute.

Source: LGBTQ Nation, “N.J. court recognizes non-biological parents’ rights in same-sex custody case“, August 12, 2014

Source: LGBTQ Nation, “N.J. court recognizes non-biological parents’ rights in same-sex custody case“, August 12, 2014