In loco parentis is a latin phrase that translates directly to "in place of parents." This a legal doctrine which recognizes that when a person acts in loco parentis they are legally able and responsible for behaving in substitute for the parents of the child. In New Jersey, this doctrine can be commonly applied in custody and support cases.
Acting In Loco Parentis
In loco parentis is not an actively pursued matter, such as custody or support, rather the doctrine plays an important role in those cases. Sometimes, a person who is not a child's directly related, biological parent can be held responsible for child support or custody if the court demands it. For in loco parentis to be applied, the child's natural parent must be relatively out of the picture, unable to access the child, or unwilling to do so. In addition to this, the child will not have spent a majority of their life with the natural parent, and finally, the step-parent or another adult must be acting as a parent, both financially and emotionally. If these factors are all in line, the court is likely to assume that the person taking guardianship of the child has acted in loco parentis, and it may play a role in determining whether or not the acting individual can be held responsible for child support and even custody. The most common persons to take on in loco parentis are step-parents and other guardians.
In Loco Parentis in the Courtroom
In the courtroom, in loco parentis can be argued to demand certain actions from the acting guardian. This is especially common in cases where a step-parent is disputing having to provide child support and cites a lack of natural parenthood as a defense. In these support cases the court may rule that because the step-parent was acting in loco parentis, they are responsible for continuing to provide support for the child post-divorce. However, divorce cases are not the only type of case where in loco parentis may be applicable. In fact, this doctrine can be used as arguments in custody or visitation-seeking cases. Sometimes an acting guardian may be more likely to get custody or visitation if they are shown to have acted in loco parentis before. This can be used for grandparents seeking visitation rights or step-parents seeking custody of children that are not naturally their own. Many times a step parent can grow to love a child from a prior marriage "as their own," and by proving that they have taken care of the child similar to the way a parent would in the past, they may hold a greater stake in court.
If you or a loved one is involved in matters of Family Law, contact Joseph D. Lento today.