For many couples going through a divorce in New Jersey, child custody is both hotly contested and very straightforward. If both parents have a legal or biological relationship to the child, they both have parental rights responsibilities related to that child. 

However, when only one parent has a legal or biological connection to the children, things can quickly become more complicated. Thankfully, especially for LGBT+ couples where only one spouse has a biological connection to the child(ren) or who may have had only one spouse finalize an adoption, New Jersey recognizes third-party custody rights if that individual has a viable claim to being a psychological parent.

What is a psychological parent?

A psychological parent is an adult who steps up to fulfill the responsibilities that a parent typically would for a child. It is common for this person to live with the child(ren) in question and to possibly have a relationship with their parent. 

They may financially provide for the child, offer emotional and social support and otherwise fulfill the duties of a parent for that child. The child may also call them mother or father. If you have fulfilled the role of a parent and the child(ren) in question thinks of you as a parent, it is very possible that New Jersey will consider you a psychological parent for custody purposes. 

In a contested custody situation where you don’t have a biological or formal legal tie to the child(ren), you may need to prepare yourself to establish your role as a psychological parent if you want custody rights during the divorce. Getting help early in the divorce process can greatly increase your chances of a positive custody outcome.