I am working on a very interesting case, and wanted some feed back on the potential ramifications. Many states, New Jersey included, have a mechanism that allows a third party, to custody and visiation rights with another person's child.
Basically, the idea has different names in different states, Defacto parent, In Loco Parentis, Functional parent, but the pattern is the same.
1. bio or adoptive parent must invite third party in to his or her life with child.
2. third party must live with child.
3. third party must take responsiblity for the child, such as financial or care taking responsiblity, and not expect to be paid back by bio or adoptive parent.
4. third party and child must have a parentlike bond that is strong enough for the court to allow it to continue despite and over the objection of the bio or adoptive parent because the continuation of the reltationship is in the child's best interest.
Most of the case law I have read, and I have not read all of it, deals with lesbian relationships. However, in New Jersey, we have a case where the third party was a neighbor of the aunt who was taking care of the child and that neighbor got custody.
Personally, I think that it is a dangerous precedent because many poor women live with men who care for children that are not that man's child[ren]. When that relationship ends and the mother is put out on the street, at least in New Jersey, the man could be successful in obtaining custody of her kids while she is homeless because for the kids to stay with the man, in his house where the kids lived, would be better than living on the street with mom. Remember, man has no bioligical relationship to the children but in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Virgina and other states he could be deemed the psychological parent and mom would then lose cusotdy.
I think this line of cases are dangerous.