Marriage

tri-parenting

Family Law Includes Tri-Parenting

tri-parenting

The concept of a married couple has faced its challenges but due to its binary nature, there are only so many configurations that can come to mind. Zoom out to the model of parenting and you are now under the heading of ‘family’. Now, we all know that family comes in all forms. However, the law defines what a family is.

As an attorney specializing in family law, I witness the changing landscape of families and relationships in court on a regular basis. Leading the charge are same-sex couples and members of the LGBTQ community, who have been bucking tradition for decades. Adoption, or the use of assisted reproductive technology, have legal components which family law attorneys specialize in.

Those cases still, however, tend to involve two parents. As recently as last year, a new concept called “tri-parenting” was introduced in trial court, involving a same-sex married couple and their female companion. Two men had agreed to jointly raise a child with a woman, after the woman had conceived via one of the men’s sperm and carried the child to term. All three took parenting classes, held separate baby showers and prepared their homes for the child to reside with all three parties.

The origins of this arrangement may seem unique but sadly, it proved just as vulnerable to breakdown as any other. For years following the child’s birth, the three parties co-parented the child, but one day, the mother decided to get married and move to California with the baby. Unable to resolve matters of custody and parenting time, the married couple were forced to file a complaint seeking legal and physical custody.

​Read Changing Custody Agreements In New Jersey

Therein lies the true challenge to legal precedent. Custody and parenting time are typically matters that are exclusive to biological or adoptive parents. Otherwise, a parent-child relationship must fit certain “extraordinary circumstances.” These circumstances exist when a third party candidate is deemed a “psychological parent.” There are essentially four requirements that must be satisfied in order for a third party to be considered a psychological parent:

  • The legal parent must agree to and foster the relationship between the third party and the child.
  • The child must have lived with the third party.
  • The third party must perform parental functions for the child to a significant degree; and
  • A parent-child bond must be formed.

In this case, the third party was the legal parent’s spouse, a schoolteacher who took on a great deal of day-to-day caretaker responsibilities, especially during the summer. Yet, it still took more than 19 days for the court to determine whether he was a psychological parent, despite the fact that the biological parents consented to and encouraged a parent-like relationship between him and the child. In addition to the years spent forming said relationship, the court acknowledged that a significant bond had been established with the child and that the man was indeed a psychological parent.

As always, the New Jersey family court ruled in the “best interests of the child” and the married couple was ordered to share equal legal and residential custody with the mother. The child would live primarily with the couple while still receiving substantial parenting time with the mother. It is important to note, however, that the status of psychological parentage did not confer legal parentage. The latter is only conferred upon a party if he or she carries the child, adopts the child, or is biologically related to the child.

New Jersey is one of a handful of states to have recognized a tri-parenting arrangement. The heteronormative concept of a family consisting of one man, one woman and their biological children has never been 100% accurate or representative. Yet, legal precedent is finally beginning to the many blends of humanity that modern families are comprised of. If your family is non-traditional and you have any questions, do not hesitate to call and make an appointment.

Fabrikant Law, LLC prides itself on providing exceptional professional and personalized service. For assistance with your family law matter, please contact us today.

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A Fairy Tale Ending Is Still An Ending: Get A Pre-Nuptial Agreement

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When it comes down to it, any stigma attached to the notion of a premarital agreement is about timing. No athlete visualizes defeat before a match or game. So who wants to think about divorce while planning or anticipating a marriage? Another contributing factor to said stigma would have to be the source from which most of us tend to hear the term ‘pre-nup’ in the first place: the rich and famous. We think of wealth, a lump of money or sizeable estate “worth protecting”. That certainly doesn’t apply to you or I, right?

For whatever reason, the peace of mind such an agreement can offer to all people (not just the rich and famous) does not warrant much attention. Perhaps the word ‘agreement’ should be replaced with ‘insurance’? After all, we don’t think twice before investing in insurance that covers events related to our health, automobiles, homes, travel plans or even pets.

Approach your attorney with this mindset and you very well may be making one of the best decisions one can make when it comes to ‘making it legal’. From this perspective, at least learning the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement is merely good sense. In the state of New Jersey, a wide variety of issues, ones you may not have otherwise considered, can be addressed by the agreement.

CREATION

It all starts with the actual creation of the agreement. Most states adhere to a law known as the The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. New Jersey enacted its own version in 1988. Three requirements are established:

  • It must be in writing.
  • It must be signed by both parties.
  • It must have a statement of assets owned by both parties, attached to it.

The idea here is to have full disclosure so that it is easy to review the financial information and make an informed decision. As a written and signed document, it might not sound like it requires an attorney. Well, writing on a piece of paper and signing one’s name may not. Maintaining a firm grasp on the big picture very likely will. That is why it is highly advisable to involve a family law attorney. Think of it this way. If you still regard the agreement as a bad omen or are having a hard time separating it from the emotional/spiritual aspect of your relationship, simply allow a legal expert to shoulder those associations as one of the responsibilities of managing your affairs. Meanwhile, you and your partner are free to commence with the love and matrimony.

PROPERTY

Those aforementioned rich and famous folks always make the news with the dollar signs attached to their agreements and the public inevitably associates that with cash. What about ownership of property? Do not forget that here in New Jersey, your agreement should outline both you and your future spouse’s rights and obligation when it comes to property that you own separately. Furthermore, what either of you do with said property going forward should be addressed, i.e. buying, selling, maintaining, transferring, etc. Lastly, how the property ends up being divided in any event, such as death or divorce, needs to be covered.

Of course, there are more financial dimensions to the premarital agreement. Again, we know you don’t want to consider it but in the event of a divorce, spousal support will absolutely be a difficult issue. With a pre-nup, this battle can be anticipated and rendered far less upsetting.

Life’s ups and downs can be accounted for, especially with your attorney monitoring. Just be clear on one thing. Child support does not enter the picture. The state of New Jersey considers these prenuptial agreements to be a matter between future spouses. A child is a separate person.

Lastly, know that premarital agreements can be challenged. The spouse doing so will have the burden of proof. Of course, this is also additional justification for legal consultation from the get go.

Fabrikant Law Is Here To Help

If you are at any stage of consideration regarding a prenuptial agreement, please contact this office.

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