A lesbian in New Jersey has won the right to seek visitation of custody of the child she helped raise with her former partner.
On August 6, an appellate court ruled that it was in the best interests of the child to maintain a relationship with his “psychological parent,” according to The Rainbow Times.
To protect the identity of the child, all parties in the case are being referred to by pseudonyms or their initials.
The plaintiff, D.M., began a relationship with the biological mother, K.A.F., when “Arthur” was eighteen months old, and over their seven years together they ultimately entered into a domestic partnership. Arthur also has an adoptive mother, F.D., who shared custody of him with K.A.F.
After the couple broke up, K.A.F. tried to forbid D.M. from contacting Arthur. D.M. attempted to sue for custodial and visitation rights, but her case was initially dismissed by a trial court, which declared that when a child already has two parents fit to provide care, a stepparent cannot be considered a psychological parent.
The appeals court disagreed, ruling that terminating a loving parent-child bond was not in Arthur’s best interests. The legal system recognizes the “psychological parent doctrine,” it explained, because without that doctrine, courts “would be powerless to avert harm to a child through the severance of the child’s parental bond with a third party.”
The Family Law Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Cathy Sakimura, told press, “We applaud the New Jersey court for recognizing that courts must be able to protect a child’s relationship with the people who have raised and cared for the child as parents—no matter who those people are.
“Families are formed in countless different ways, and the law must be flexible enough to protect children from the deep psychological harm that comes from severing a parent-child bond.”