Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznare
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Case Law Development: Caretaking does not Include Breadwinning in Proving De Facto Parent Status

The Massachusetts Supreme Court considers two questions of first impression in a case involving a custody dispute between a lesbian couple. The court concludes that an adult who is neither the biological nor the adoptive parent of a minor child may assert custody and support rights as a "de facto parent," but affirmed the trial court's finding that the second parent in this case had not proven sufficient facts to prove her status as de facto parent.  The non-biological parent was the primary breadwinner and was away from home with her employment a significant period of time.  She argued, however, that her economic contributions to the family should be considered as caretaking for proving de fact parent status.  The court disagreed, however, citing the ALI Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution, the court noted that "he notion of "caretaking" as the particular subset of parenting tasks having most directly to do with interacting with and on behalf of the child serves as a valuable tool for assessing the adult's bond with the child."  The court also rejects the invitation to recognize estoppel principles as creating parental rights where the party claiming such rights is neither the biological nor adoptive parent of the child and does not meet the criteria of a de facto parent.

A.H. v. M.P., 2006 Mass. LEXIS 692 (December 8, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited December 13, 2006 bgf)

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