Tri-Parenting in Passaic County, New Jersey

Qualified Family Law Attorneys Assisting Families with Questions Regarding Tri-Parenting Issues in Little Falls, Wayne, Verona, and Northern NJ

Tri-Parenting Family Attorneys in West Milford NJFamilies now are as diverse as they have ever been.  Family structure has shifted according to societal changes and a broadening of what qualifies as a family.  Moving from the classic two-parent, man-and-wife family from the 1950s, single parents, stepparents, and grandparents are creating a new vision of a family. In the 1950s, 87% of all families were formed from a hetero-two-parent family.  By 2000, that number had changed to 70%; in 2020, it was down to 61%.  Single parenthood is at 26%, from 18% in 2000 and 8% in 1960.  Blended families comprised of stepparents and stepchildren have been slowly rising since the 1980s.

Some cultures encourage extended families to share a home:  aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, brothers, and sisters may live together for economic or traditional reasons.  Some grandparents become their grandchildren’s primary caregivers when the parents cannot care for them due to tragedies such as illness, death, addiction, or violence in the home. Same-sex couples adopt or use surrogacy or IVF to have children.  What was seen as an anomaly years ago has become much more common today. The meaning of family is different depending on whom you ask.  Right now, two-parent households are a minority.  Most families comprise parents who have remarried, are single, are cohabitating, or have partners without children.

If you have any family law concerns, such as custody, divorce, alimony, or inquiries regarding tri-parenting in New Jersey, don’t hesitate to contact Montanari Law Group at 973-233-4396. Our seasoned attorneys are available for a confidential consultation, ready to assist you, whether you’re having concerns about the legal implications of parenting issues in Montvale, Bergenfield, Caldwell, Clifton, or other nearby towns in Passaic County, Essex County, Bergen County, and North New Jersey.

What Sets Tri-Parenting Apart from Other Family Arrangements?

As recently as 2005, methods of assisted reproduction techniques (ART) opened the door to infertile couples and same-sex couples the ability to have a biological child.  Some same-sex couples choose to create a three-parent family with a member of the opposite sex.  This is referred to as tri-parenting.  There is a mutual agreement between the three people to raise the child together.

Tri-parent families usually comprise two men and one woman or two women and one man.  Tri families do not necessarily reside together.  Based on a mutual decision, they may live in different places but still maintain an active role in the child’s life.

Tri-Parenting as a Unique Legal Perspective on Contemporary Families

It is impossible to paint the answer to this question with a broad brush.  In more conservative states, tri-parenting isn’t considered in any case.  Other states work on each case as they arise. Some states are more open to tri-families. A homosexual couple had a child with their friend, Rebecca.  When Rebecca became terminally ill, she requested that Matthew, who is not the biological father, adopt the child so the couple would have legal custody.

In another case, a judge in Florida in 2013, in Miami, allowed three names on a girl’s birth certificate when there was an argument regarding custody between a lesbian couple and their friend.  They asked him to sign away his parental rights before the child was born.  They argued in court before finally agreeing to a tri-parenting scenario.  He was given visitation rights while the couple maintained their responsibility to make decisions about the child.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2016, a couple with three children invited the maternal grandmother to live with them after she became a widow.  She became a primary caregiver for the children, taking them to their extra-curricular activities, helping with homework, and cooking meals when the parents were working late or otherwise engaged. At the parents’ behest, she was legally considered a third parent.

Complexities of Tri-Parenting, A Case Study in Determining Parental Rights

The child’s best interests are paramount, no matter the situation.  When there is an unfortunate split between the three parents, the biological parents are usually given custody of the child and make the decisions for them.  As far as parental rights are concerned, more often than not, the biological parents maintain their rights.

An exception to this occurred when Ginger M. and Helena D., who were recently betrothed, decided to conceive a child with the help of their friend, Derek K.  When the baby was born, they petitioned the court to grant legal custody to all three parents.  Eventually, Ginger and Helena divorced, but the three adults wanted to be “legal parents” and requested that a  birth certificate with all three names be provided.  The attorney general at the time rejected the request, stating that Ginger and Helena were the parents because they were married when Ginger got pregnant, and Helena adopted the child within weeks of its birth.  He disagreed that Derek should be a parent because he did not live with the couple and had less influence over the child.  The three parents have fought the decision, but no results have surfaced yet.

Cooperation Plays a Decisive Role in Tri-Parenting Cases in NJ

If it is hard enough for couples to coordinate schedules, extended family activities, school meetings and assemblies, vacations, etc., it is even more complicated with three parents.  Flexibility, communication, collaboration, and wicked planning skills are a must.  Coordinating whose role addresses the day-to-day responsibilities and activities can be an enormous hurdle.  Confusion could have the child on the sidelines long after the field hockey game has ended, waiting for a ride from a parent who was sure it was another parent’s turn.  The holidays can cause a conundrum as well.  Three parents mean three sets of grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, and visiting them all in one day would be exhausting, so alternatives must be sought.  In that instance, it isn’t just the parents who need to collaborate, if not their extended families.

Psychological Parenting in Tri-Parenting Custody Cases

Usually, custody and parenting time apply only to biological or adoptive parents.  But if a parent-child relationship is considered to contain “extraordinary circumstances,” that can change.  When a third parent is recognized as a “psychological parent,” visitation and custody between the biological parents alone are reconsidered. A psychological parent must have lived with the child, have a parent-child relationship, agree to foster the relationship with the child, and perform parental duties substantially.

Main Perks in a Tri-Parenting Setting

One of the advantages of tri-parenting is the number of extended family members who can support the family, whether it be babysitting, celebrating, or cheering on in sports or performances such as theater. An extended family can provide the “village” needed to raise a child. Further, three parents mean more economic resources if all three parents reside under one roof.  Even if they don’t, money for clothing, shoes, school supplies, and class trips can be split three ways rather than two.

Key Elements to Handle Tri-Parenting Matters in New JerseyCommon Struggles in a Tri-Parenting Model

Many families forego a legal agreement between them as they doubt there will be trouble down the road.  This can spell disaster for the family.  Tri-parents are not legally recognized as legitimate parents except for Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Alaska, D.C., Delaware, Washington, Maine, and Pennsylvania.  The biological parents are the legal guardians, and the third parent rarely has any legal rights regarding custody and decision-making regarding the child. When divorce, remarriage, or relocation occur, so can the squabbles over custodial and visitation rights.

Another disadvantage is that it is more of a societal issue.  Consider a family of two dads and one mom.  Dad A is not on the birth certificate because he isn’t the biological father.  He goes to register his daughter for school and is told he cannot because he isn’t a legal parent.  Unfortunately, his child is seriously injured in a car accident, but he isn’t allowed to see her because he isn’t her father.  It is at these times that tri-parenting can be particularly challenging.

A New Jersey Example of a Tri-Parenting Legal Case

In D.G. v. K.S, a gay married couple and Kitty, a life-long friend, wanted to have a baby.  They used Darren’s sperm, while the other husband, Sam, gave Olive her name.  Before Olive came into the world, the three adults agreed to be integrally involved in raising their daughter.  Kitty took her to spend the winters in Costa Rica, where she owned a house in a remote area.  The dads were involved in their child’s decision-making and upbringing, which included choosing a private school for her to attend.

Unfortunately, the relationship encountered troubled times when Kitty fell in love with a man in Costa Rica and wanted to move to California to live with him.  This did not sit well with Sam and Darren, as they lived on the East Coast.  Sam, who was not Olive’s biological father, filed for custody, asking to be recognized legally as Olive’s father.  The court did recognize him as a psychological parent, giving him rights to parenting time or custody.  He wasn’t named Olive’s legal father because of legislation known as the New Jersey Parentage Act, which defines a parent as related biologically or through adoption to the child in question.  The court also declared that Kitty was not allowed to take Olive to California.

Contact Ringwood Family Lawyers for Answers to Your Tri-Parenting Legal Questions in NJ

Are you in a tri-parent relationship?  Our knowledgeable family law attorneys can help you in many ways at the Montanari Law Group.  When entering into a relationship of this type, having an agreement in writing before the baby is born is always the best way to go.  Negotiating responsibilities, financial support, and other important decisions should not be left to chance.

If you and your co-parents are raising your child, but issues within your relationship have led to divorce or separation, you should seek legal counsel.  We will listen to your concerns and map out a plan to protect your and your child’s rights in Fort Lee, Paramus, Hawthorne, Millburn, Montclair, and across Passaic County and Northern New Jersey.

Call 973-233-4396 or contact us online for a no cost consultation.  Your family is important to us.  Let us help you maintain the relationship with your child you so much desire.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.