A New Jersey family court judge recently awarded residential custody to three people—the biological father( Darren), his same-sex spouse( Sam), and the biological mother ( Kitty).
After 19 days of trial, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Wauters issued a 67 page decision addressing a unique custody setting involving three people who believed that they were creating a new family paradigm, a tri-parenting relationship where the child was the offspring of a man in a same-sex marriage (Darren & Sam) and a woman (Kitty) who had been a long time friend to both men, with the intent that all 3 would remain actively involved in raising their child together.
The three began discussing parenthood in 2006, and ultimately—with the help of an ovulation monitor and a turkey baster, conceived, resulting in the birth of a girl in 2009.
After her birth, the child split her time equally between Kitty’s home in Point Pleasant Beach and the Darren & Sam’s home in Manhattan.
All was well until Kitty met a man with whom she fell in love and she then wanted to move to California to be with him and wanted to take their daughter with her to live.
Darren & Sam objected to Kitty’s plan to relocate to California with their child and they then filed a complaint with the NJ Court System seeking custody.
After 19 days of trial, the court entered an order awarding all three parents “joint residential custody” of the girl, finding that arrangement to be in the child’s best interests, with the child to spend roughly equal time with Kitty in her Point Pleasant Beach home (in NJ) and with Darren & Sam in their Princeton NJ home. The decision thereby precluded Kitty from relocating to California with the child.
In filing the custody complaint, the court noted that Sam also wanted the court to view him as a “legal parent” equal to Darren and Kitty, but the court held that same was not permissible under the state’s statutory laws. Instead, the court ruled that Sam would be considered a “psychological parent” to the child with Darren and Kitty sharing legal custody of her, with neither designated as the primary custodial parent.
In rendering her decision, the court also opined that it could not apply the child support guidelines in this matter; instead ruling that all three should share equally the significant costs of raising this child.