Less than half of all American families are what would formerly be considered “traditional”. In fact, our family law attorneys hesitate to even use the term traditional as the concept is quickly fading away. Thankfully, legislation and state laws are changing to reflect this as well. With same sex marriage becoming legal at a state and federal level, judges considering tri-parenting child custody agreements, non-traditional families are more well protected than ever. It is critical to understand that many legal disputes in New Jersey are considered on a one-by-one basis with ample flexibility to provide for difference family situations.
Today, our non-traditional family rights’ attorneys will discuss just a few issues which may arise in NJ family disputes including same sex marriage and divorce, psychological parentage, and unconventional child custody arrangements.
Passaic County, NJ Same Sex Couples’ Legal Rights
After the landmark 2015 Supreme Court Decision Obergefell v. Hodges, same sex couples have enjoyed the same constitutional rights to marry as different sex couples. As far as the law is concerned, there is no material difference between a “traditional” and a same sex marriage. This goes for divorce as well. Same sex divorce proceedings follow the same legal process in New Jersey.
It is also common for New Jersey same sex couples to be involved in civil unions, which were legalized in the years prior to same sex marriage. Civil union dissolutions are legally analogous to divorce, and frequently involve many of the same issues of divorce such as child custody, child support, alimony and spousal support, and the equitable distribution of assets.
Chatham Parents’ Rights Attorneys Define Psychological Parentage
Another lesser known situation which arises for our Chatham family law attorneys is known as “psychological parentage”. When a guardian assumes the role of a parent despite not being the legal parent through biology or adoption, he or she may be eligible for child custody through a psychological parentage claim. If granted psychological parent status, the co-parent will be able to seek child custody and/or parenting time. This allows for less traditional family structures to be given proper and full legal representation. In order to be considered a psychological parent, and individual must prove that her or she:
- Has cared for the child from a residential and custodial perspective (the child has lived with the would-be psychological parent)
- Has provided for the child financially, educationally, provided childcare, and so on
- The existing relationship between the adult and the child was agreed to and encouraged by the biological and/or legal parent of the child
- The parent-child relationship has been of sufficient duration and substance to develop a strong parental bond
Although it is uncommon, it may even be possible to become a psychological parent of a child who already has two actively involved biological parents. This goes to illustrate the point that New Jersey Family Courts are leaning towards flexibility when determining what is in the best interests of the child.
Non-Traditional Child Custody Agreements: Harding Child Custody Lawyers
Carrying over from the previous section, the idea that child custody agreements are between two co-parents is being challenged. While our Harding child custody lawyers understand that the vast majority of child custody cases will be between two parties, there are notable exceptions. Take the case of three New Jersey co-parents who entered into a tri-parenting agreement. Two men (let’s say Chris and Steve) who were married, shared custody and parenting time with a single woman (Rachel). Rachel and Chris were the biological parents with Steve being an involved psychological parent.
In a 2016 decision, the courts ruled that all three co-parents should be considered legal guardians and be given the legal protections that affords. After a legal dispute over Rachel’s desire to move across the country, it was determined that Rachel would be given fifty percent physical custody while Chris and Steve would be granted fifty percent as a couple. Rachel’s request to relocate was denied based on the best interests of the child keeping in contact with her mother and her two fathers.
If you Have a Unique Family Situation and Need Legal Help, Contact our Morristown Family Law Attorneys Today
The family law attorneys of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark are proud to serve non-traditional families from Morris County towns including Chester, Chatham, Morristown, Mendham, Morris Township, Harding, and all of Northern New Jersey. If you are looking for a firm who will take your case on an individual basis and explore all possible legal solutions, look no further. We offer comprehensive divorce and family law legal services whether you are interested in resolving your issues out of court, through alternative conflict resolution, or need to take your legal actions to court.