Tri-Custody Parenting Rights: Is the Third Adult a Psychological Parent?

Three friends enter into an agreement to conceive and jointly raise a child in a tri-parenting arrangement. There is a biological mother and father. The third adult is the father’s same-sex spouse. In the weeks after the child was born, the three adults lived together and participated in all parenting duties. Eventually, the men moved out into their own home and the adults tri-parented successfully for years. During year six of the child’s life, the mother announces her plan to marry and move to California with the child. Unable to reach an agreement, the father and spouse sought legal and physical custody of the child, parenting time, and a determination that the third adult is the psychological parent of the child.

In a case such as this, what rights, if any, does the third adult have with respect to the child? The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, determined that the third adult is a psychological parent and has the same rights and responsibilities as the biological parents. The court in D.G. and S.H v. K.S., awarded joint legal and joint residential custody to all three adults. The mother’s petition to relocate to California was denied.



Best Interest of the Child Standard

To relocate with a child in New Jersey, the court uses the “best interest of the child” standard.


The Third Parent is the Psychological Parent of the Child

The court awarded the third adult custody of the child because it found that he was the child’s psychological parent. Among the court’s findings were:

  • The agreement to tri-parent was mutual;
  • The parties agreed to tri-parent before the child was conceived;
  • The mother consented and encouraged the child’s relationship with the third adult;
  • The father consented and encouraged the child’s relationship with the third adult;
  • The third adult was involved in care and support of the child since birth;
  • All the parties had significant, recurring parenting time with the child in each of their households;
  • The third adult assumed parental responsibility without compensation;
  • The third adult contributed financially to the support of the child; and
  • The child established a bond with the third parent who at the time of the petition was 6 years old.

Thus, the court determined that the third adult was the psychological parent of the child. Once a third adult is found to be a psychological parent to a child, the third adult stands in equal footing with the biological or legal parents. Custody and parenting time issues between parents and a psychological parent are determined using the “best interest of the child” standard.


Contct a Hackensack, New Jersey Child Custody Attorney

If you have questions regarding child custody, visitation or parenting time, or child support in New Jersey, contact a Hackensack, NJ Divorce and Family Law Attorney today to schedule a consultation. The Giro Law Firm provides legal services in a variety of divorce and family law matters, including contested divorces, prenuptial agreements, paternity disputes, parental rights and adoptions.


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