In Loco Parentis – When You Act As The Psychological Parent To The Child, Are You Agreeing To Pay Child Support Until The Child Is 18?

The African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” is still alive and real even today.  There are many circumstances when parents cannot be the parent they want to be or who the child needs them to be and the parent has to rely on friends or family.  Parents have health complications, military deployments and work obligations that do not enable them to be the at-home, hands-on parent they want to be.  When the other parent cannot help or has military deployments or work obligations as well, it is not unheard of for grandparents and other family members to step up and help.  The law says that these people who stand in the shoes of the parents stand in loco parentis.  Sometimes these people are the only parent that the child knows.  These third party parents are also called the psychological parent or de facto parent.

Benefits And Obligations As A Parent 

The right to make educational decisions, consent to surgery and all kinds of other medical decisions are natural rights that arise as a result of being the biological parent to the child.  Being a parent also carries with it obligation to support the child, which, if court ordered and unpaid, can result in imprisonment, or incarceration, until the arrears are purged.

Why A Custody Order Is Beneficial 

A custody order is generally more than a good idea when the family members take on the responsibility to care for, watch over and raise a child not their own.  It is necessary to help enroll the child in school, go to the doctor’s office for routine and emergency visits and everything in between.  Even issues dealing with the child’s religious and educational needs may require a custody order.

If I Stand In Loco Parentis Will I Have The Same Legal Obligations As A Natural Parent?

But what of the obligations that normally attend parents?  Do those who stand in loco parentis also carry an obligation to support the child?  There are some limited circumstances when the grandparents have a responsibility for child support of their minor’s child.  Other states have case law that require a party who stands in loco parentis to pay child supportFor example, in a relatively recent case in Tennessee, Frances Rodriguez v. Charles G. Price, the court ruled that if the party who stands in in loco parentis “failed to make the payments that he was obliged to make” the other parent (in that case a biological parent) could seek enforcement of the child support obligation in a contempt proceeding.  One South Carolina case in particular has the most clear and definitive language on the issue for South Carolina at least.  Gunn v. Rollings, 250 S.C. 302, 157 S.E. 2d 590 (1967) stated that “[w]here one is in loco parentis, the rights, duties, and liabilities of such person are the same as those of a natural parent and such person is bound for the maintenance, care and education of the child so long as the relationship exists.”

Perhaps you need a custody order that shields you from future child support obligations.  Perhaps you have the consent of one or both of the parents.  Perhaps you want to protect your right to see the child that you consider a son or a daughter.  Only a compassionate, experienced child custody attorney can help you achieve the best outcome.

Contact an Attorney Today

Robert Clark is an experienced lawyer, with years of experience helping people in some of the most delicate and trying times in their lives.  If you are experiencing any of the issues listed above or would like to speak about other aspects of family law, contact us to setup an appointment.

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