In re Brandon L.E

In In re Brandon L.E., 183 W. Va. 113, 394 S.E.2d 515 (1990), the Court was called upon to ascertain which court possessed jurisdiction to decide the fate of a child embroiled in a bitter custody dispute between his biological father, with whom he had had infrequent contact, and his maternal grandmother, who had participated in his upbringing since his birth and who was, at the time of the proceedings, serving as his primary caretaker. During the course of our deliberations, the Court acknowledged that psychological parent status is entitled to consideration in appropriate cases: "If a child has resided with an individual other than a parent for a significant period of time such that the non-parent with whom the child resides serves as the child's psychological parent, during a period when the natural parent had the right to maintain continuing substantial contact with the child and failed to do so, the equitable rights of the child must be considered in connection with any decision that would alter the child's custody. To protect the equitable rights of a child in this situation, the child's environment should not be disturbed without a clear showing of significant benefit to him, notwithstanding the parent's assertion of a legal right to the child."