Third Party's Claim to Joint Custody In New Jersey

In V.C. v. M.J.B., 163 N.J. 200, 748 A.2d 539 (2000) the Court found itself "called on to determine what legal standard applies to a third party's claim to joint custody and visitation of her former domestic partner's biological children, with whom she lived in a familial setting and in respect of whom she claims to have functioned as a psychological parent. . . ." 163 N.J. at 205, 748 A.2d 539. The Court's own statement of the issue before it presaged several of the required elements of psychological parenthood: a former domestic partnership, between parties living in a family setting, wherein the third party functioned as a psychological parent. In V.C., as here, the parties had been in a lesbian relationship. However, the Court clearly announced that "the standard we enunciate is applicable to all persons who have willingly, and with the approval of the biological or adoptive parent, undertaken the duties of a parent to a child not related by blood or adoption." 163 N.J. at 205-06, 748 A.2d 539. "The standards to which we have referred will govern all cases in which a third party asserts psychological parent status as a basis for a custody or visitation action regarding the child of a legal parent, with whom the third party has lived in a familial setting." Id. at 227, 748 A.2d 539.