Acting in “Loco Parentis” Means That a Person is Lawfully Capable and Accountable for Acting as the Child’s Parents

Breaking Down the In Loco Parentis Doctrine in NJ“In loco parentis” is a Latin term that means “in the place of a parent.” This legal concept refers to the responsibility of an individual or organization to take on some of the functions and duties of a parent, such as providing for the care, protection, and education of a child or young person.

In educational contexts, in loco parentis often refers to the legal authority of schools or universities to act in the best interests of their students and make decisions on their behalf, such as imposing discipline, setting rules and policies, and providing guidance and support. This concept can also apply to other situations where an individual or organization assumes the role of a parent, such as in child custody arrangements or medical decision-making.

In The Context Of Family Law, What Are Its Synonyms?

In family law, some synonyms for “in loco parentis” may include Terms such as a legal guardian, custodial responsibility, parental responsibility, substitute parenting, de facto parent, surrogate parent, parental responsibility, and care and control of a child,

In Loco Parentis and Child Support in NJ

“In loco parentis” can affect child support obligations in certain circumstances. Generally speaking, child support is typically paid by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to help cover the costs of raising a child. However, in cases where someone else has taken on some or all of the responsibilities of a parent, the situation can become more complex. If someone is acting in loco parentis and has legal custody or guardianship of a child, they may be entitled to receive child support payments from the child’s non-custodial parent. This could occur, for example, if a grandparent has taken on full-time care of a grandchild and the child’s parent is not involved in their life.

Conversely, if someone is acting in loco parentis but does not have legal custody or guardianship of the child, they would not typically be entitled to receive child support payments. As multiple marriages become more common, questions regarding a stepparent’s obligation to pay child support frequently arise when there is a divorce. The solution to this problem is not as apparent as one might imagine. The biological parents should be the primary source of support.  There are some instances, however, when the stepparent may be required to pay child support.

Situations When the In Loco Parentis Doctrine is Applied

“In loco parentis” can be considered in various where an individual or organization assumes some of the responsibilities and duties of a parent for a child or young person. Some examples of situations where in loco parentis might be considered include:

Schools and universities may be considered acting in loco parentis concerning their students. This means that they must provide a safe and supportive environment for their students and may take disciplinary action, provide guidance and support, and make decisions on behalf of their students in certain circumstances. Foster parents who are caring for a child on a temporary or long-term basis may also be considered to be acting in loco parentis concerning that child. This means that they must provide for the child’s basic needs, safety, and well-being and may make decisions on the child’s behalf with respect to medical care, education, and other matters.

In cases where a non-custodial parent is not involved in a child’s life, another individual, such as a grandparent or family friend, may seek custody or visitation rights because they are acting in loco parentis concerning the child. In some cases, an individual who is not a child’s biological or adoptive parent may be considered to be acting in loco parentis with respect to medical decision-making. This could occur, for example, if a child is being cared for by a relative while their parent is hospitalized or unable to make decisions due to a medical condition.

Ultimately, whether or not someone is acting in loco parentis will depend on the specific circumstances of each case, as well as the applicable legal and ethical standards in the relevant jurisdiction.

What Can We Learn From Miller V. Miller?

In Miller V. Miller, Gladys Miller and her second husband, Jay Miller, were married for seven years.  At the time of the marriage, Gladys’ daughters from a previous marriage were 6 and 9 years old.  Jay treated the girls as if they were his own.  They referred to him as “daddy,” and he provided for their financial and emotional needs.  The girls’ biological father, Ralph Febre, financially supported them and their mother until he was incarcerated on a drug charge. Although still in prison, he showed great interest in maintaining a relationship with his daughters, but they were taken to see him only once.

After his release, Ralph sent checks for child support, but Jay tore them up and insisted he would provide for them.  Despite numerous phone calls and pleas to see his daughters, Ralph was denied the opportunity to meet with them, even under supervised conditions.  He was granted one visit by the girls at his parents’ house and did not see them again.  Jay attempted to adopt the girls but could not because Ralph refused to give up his parental rights.

When Jay and Gladys divorced, she claimed he was required to pay child support because he had been a father to the girls throughout the relationship and had promised to always care for them.  Jay said they were not his children, and his responsibilities of in loco parentis end when the divorce is final.

Every case of this kind is resolved based on its specific details.  New Jersey doe not have a law or statute that requires a stepparent to pay child support in the case of a divorce.  The court said that Jay would be required to support the children until their biological parent, Ralph, could support them.  They determined that Jay had insisted on cutting off all ties between the girls and their biological parent, so he assumed responsibility for their care.

Understanding When to Apply the In Loco Parentis Concept in NJHow to Apply In Loco Parentis in Court

In the courtroom, in loco parentis can be argued to demand certain actions from the acting guardian.  This frequently occurs in the case of stepparents like the example above who do not want to pay child support for their stepchildren.

Grandparents seeking visitation rights or step-parents seeking custody of children that are not naturally their own may claim in loco parentis.  For example, if the children’s grandparents, on the part of their stepparent, have developed a deep relationship with their “grandchildren,” they may request visitation rights.

When parents are unable to care for their children, the court may appoint someone to act “in loco parentis” to make decisions on behalf of the child. For example, a grandparent or other family member may be appointed to care for a child whose parents cannot do so.

In negligence cases, if a child is injured while under the care of someone who is acting “in loco parentis,” that person may be held liable for the child’s injuries if they were negligent in their duties. For example, if a teacher fails to supervise a student properly, resulting in an injury, the teacher may be held responsible for the child’s damages.

Contact Bronzino Law Firm for Guidance Regarding in Loco Parentis Scenarios in New Jersey

The Bronzino Law Firm has years of experience dealing with divorce, child support, and custody issues in Marlboro, Brick, Tinton Falls, Middletown, Ocean Township, Mantoloking, Neptune, and other Ocean and Monmouth County towns.  We know how to approach your family law case in a manner that best serves your interests, while personally and professionally pursuing your optimal outcome. Our experienced family law attorneys can help you evaluate your case and create a plan.  We will be your advocate and will make sure your rights are protected.

If you need assistance with a family law matter, call our office at (732) 812-3102 or contact us online for a free confidential consultation.