An appellate court in New Jersey has ruled that a parent with no biological or legal ties to a child may still be entitled to custodial rights as a “psychological Parent.”
The decision comes in the case of a lesbian couple who jointly raised the biological child of one of the woman from the age of 18 months. For more than seven years, the couple equally shared in parenting the child during their custodial time.
The couple had entered into a domestic partnership before same-sex marriage became legal in New Jersey.
After the couple separated, the child’s biological mother tried to prevent her former partner from having any further contact with the child.
The child’s stepparent filed for custody and visitation rights, but lost in trial court.
On August 6, an appeals court ruled that the purpose of the psychological parent doctrine is to protect a child from the “serious psychological harm” caused by terminating a parent-child bond.
The court said that any person who lives with and cares for a child for a significant time and develops a parent-child bond with the encouragement of one of the legal parents must be allowed to seek custody or visitation if it is in the child’s best interests.