The Role of a Psychological Parent

A psychological parent is an adult who develops a strong, parent-like bond with a child without actually becoming the child’s legal parent. In many cases, a psychological parent is the child’s legal parent’s romantic partner. This partner might not be able to legally adopt the child because the child already has two legal parents or because the court feels that such an adoption would not be in the child’s best interest.

Illinois recently passed a law granting psychological parents the right to be considered for parenting time and parental responsibilities by the court. One high-profile case involving this law was that of a woman who, claiming to be the child’s paternal grandmother, cared for an infant born with opiates in his system for nine months following his birth. After a paternity test determined that she was not biologically related to the child, she sought parental responsibilities for him because she was the only parent he had ever known. After a lengthy court battle involving the child’s biological mother, who had previously not been involved in the child’s life, the court granted the woman full parental responsibilities on the grounds that she was his psychological parent.

Defining a Psychological Parent

Simply living with a partner and his or her child does not make an adult the child’s psychological parent. In order to be considered a psychological parent and therefore, considered in decisions regarding parenting time and responsibilities regarding the child, consider the following factors:

Do you have a consistent relationship with the child?
Do you make day-to-day decisions on the child’s behalf, such as decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, and personal care?
Do you have a bonded, dependent relationship with the child?
Do you fulfill all roles that a parent would reasonably be expected to fulfill?

In most cases, the psychological parent resides in the same household as the child, though this is not a requirement. When an adult is deemed to be a psychological parent, he or she may be considered during court determinations of parental responsibilities and parenting time. This does not guarantee anything to the parent other than that his or her relationship with the child will be considered. However, in New Mexico one who fulfills the role of a psychological parent can give rise to various causes of action that impact on a biological parent’s legal rights. Actions such as abuse/neglect proceedings, Kinship Guardianship Act and/or Uniform Parentage Act proceedings could all be impacted by the existence of a psychological parent. To learn more about custody rights contact our custody experts at or call us at 505-880-8737.