Usually, the people involved in a custody case are the biological or adoptive parents. However, a widely referenced 2014 case from the New Jersey appellate court allowed a stepparent who had raised a child from a young age to pursue custody or visitation with the child if that would be in the child’s best interests. This is the case even if the child has two fit parents.
The case, K.A.F. v. D.L.M., involved a same-sex stepparent who had shared parenting duties with the child’s biological mother from when the child was 18-months-old and for over seven years before her separation from the mother. The court based its decision to allow the stepparent to seek custody on the “psychological parent” doctrine. The purpose of this doctrine is to protect the child from psychological harm that would occur from being separated from an adult who had a parental bond with the child.
Although the K.A.F. v. D.L.M. case involved a same-sex stepparent, the court’s reasoning depended more on the ability of multiple adults to develop a bond with a child, not on the adults’ sexuality. Therefore, it is likely that the rights granted to the stepmother in that case will extend to heterosexual stepparents.
This ruling has the potential to affect many families in New Jersey. With family structures becoming more complex and less traditional, you or someone you know can likely relate to the relationship a stepparent develops with their stepchildren.
Related Resources For Contested Custody in New Jersey
At Petrelli Previtera, we support families in New Jersey facing custody disputes. Our goal is to provide clarity and guidance in complex family law matters, helping you navigate this challenging process.
Our comprehensive resources cover essential topics, including New Jersey’s custody laws, including if NJ is a 50/50 Custody State, signs that may need a child custody lawyer, effective strategies for preparing for a custody trial, establishing paternity and grandparents and stepparent’s rights for custody.
Our legal team of NJ custody lawyers also has worked with clients in matters of Child Support and can address your questions. Whether it’s about the tax implications of child support, modifications to support, understanding child support add-ons, fulfilling obligations for adult child support, or a parent’s responsibility to contribute to college expenses in NJ, we offer guidance and support.
Please note that while our information provides valuable guidance, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice. For tailored advice that suits your unique New Jersey custody case, contact Petrelli Previtera.
The family law attorneys at Petrelli Previtera are devoted to helping parents and children maintain their relationships. If you or a friend is facing a change in your family life, please schedule an appointment with us today to discuss your rights and plan of action.