Tri-Parenting Upheld in New Jersey Family Court

A court in New Jersey has ruled on custody, removal and support issues in a highly unusual case—that of a 6-year-old girl conceived and jointly raised by three friends.

According to court reports, the three friends—Kristine, Doug and Shawn (Doug’s same-sex partner) initially discussed the idea of conceiving and raising a child together in 2006, specifically intending that all three would act as parents to any child born to Kristine. They coined the term “tri-parenting” to describe the arrangement they set up. Using Doug’s sperm and an egg from Kristine, a child (Olivia) was conceived and born in 2009, using an in-home insemination process.

After Olivia was born, all three moved into Kristine’s home and actively co-parented Olivia. However, after Kristine returned to work, Doug and Shawn decided to get their own, separate residence. Moving forward, the parenting time of each of the three fluctuated, with Doug and Shawn (a school teacher) handling most of the duties in the summer. The parties never entered into any written agreement regarding custody, parenting or access to the child.

For the first four years of the child’s life, everything went pretty much as planned, and the trio enjoyed some media attention as they forged this new type of parenting relationship. However, in 2013, Kristine returned from a trip to Costa Rica and announced that she had fallen in love with a man who lived in California. Kristine subsequently advised Doug and Shawn that she wanted to move to California. Doug and Shawn asked for a written plan for co-parenting Olivia and formally objected to Kristine’s relocation to California. In an attempt to get a court order determining custody and granting visitation, Doug and Shawn filed a complaint in New Jersey state court.

The court subsequently issued an order transferring sole legal custody of Olivia to Doug. The order did not address physical custody. The New Jersey Family Court heard the case and ruled in favor of Doug and Shawn, following what it considered to be well-established precedent allowing a person who has served as a “psychological parent” to obtain legal parental rights. The family court ruling awarded joint legal and residential custody to all three parties and denied Kristine’s request to relocate to California with the child.

As non-traditional families became more and more prevalent in today’s world, it is important to keep apprised of one’s legal rights.

Contact the New Jersey Child Custody Lawyers of Lyons & Associates

At the law office of Lyons & Associates, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved family law matters, including domestic violence issues. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.