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Only One Legal Parent's Consent is required for a Third Party to have Standing as a "Psychological Parent"

A person may become a "psychological parent" to a child when he or she steps into the shoes of a natural parent. Such a person (referred to a "third party" legally), may become a psychological parent if a legal parent of the child chooses to cede a measure of parental authority to the third party. Four essential requirements must be satisfied for one to become a legally-recognized psychological parent: (1) The legal parent must consent to and foster the relationship between the third party and the child; (2) the third party must have lived with the child; (3) the third party must perform parental functions for the child to a significant degree; and (4) most importantly, a parent-child bond must be forged. These criteria are designed to assist a court in evaluating whether a third party has in fact become a psychological parent and thus has standing to bring a custody suit. As the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized in the 2000 case V.C. v. M.J.B., at the heart of psychological parent cases is the recognition that children have a strong interest in maintaining the ties that connect them to adults who love and provide for them.

Pursuant to a recent psychological parent case, K.A.F. v. D.L.M., New Jersey's Appellate Division held that it is sufficient if only one of two fit and active legal parents has consented to the parental role of a third party in order for the third party to have standing to advance a custody claim. Significantly, the K.A.F. Court further held that said consent could be explicit or implicit. However, the status of the non-consenting parent is only one factor among many a court must consider in determining whether the third party has established that he or she is a psychological parent and, if so, whether the best interests of the child warrant some form of custody or visitation to the psychological parent.

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