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Psychological Parent in a Colorado Springs Divorce

Thursday, 20 December 2007
Courts in Colorado Springs divorce or dissolution of marriage cases recognize the concept of a psychological parent and its relationship to the best interest of the child.  The psychological father or psychological mother in a divorce is someone other than a biological parent who develops a parent-child relationship with a child through day-to-day interaction, companionship, and caring for the child.  Who may be deemed a psychological parent has been defined in various ways –common to these definitions is a relationship with deep emotional bonds such that the child sees the person as Mom or Dad. 

There is case law in Colorado that prevents the psychological parent from obtaining parenting rights and responsibilities if the natural parent of the same gender objects. 

Once the person is deemed a psychological parent whether that person will be required to pay child support is another issue.  Normally, we argue under principles of equitable estoppel  or promissory estoppel that child support should be paid. 

Equitable estoppel requires representation, reliance, and detriment. It arises when one party is led to change its position in reliance on the course of conduct followed by another, and in that case, the doctrine of estoppel will be applied to bar the second party from altering that conduct if, to do so, would prejudice the first party.  That case goes on to establish a test for determining the existence of a psychological parent relationship.

The test for determining whether a party has been a psychological parent to a child is that the legal parent must consent to and foster the relationship between the third party and the child; the third party must have lived with the child; the third party must perform parental functions for the child to a significant degree; and most important, a parent-child bond must be forged.  

Some Courts have determined that equitable estoppel can only by used as a shield, and not a sword.  In those cases, we  argue that a different concept promissory estoppel  applies.  There must be five prerequisites for promissory estoppel:  (1) A promise which (2) the promisor should reasonably expect to cause the promisee to change his position and (3) which does cause the promisee to change his position (4) justifiably relying upon the promise, in such a manner that (5) injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise. 

We have argued that a person who prior to the dissolution of marriage,  takes a child into his home and holds her out as his own, and receives and enjoys the benefits of parenthood, inducing the natural parent to rely on them as a means of support, should be responsible for the support of that child.   

BOTTOM LINE:  There is no case law yet to determine that the psychological parent must pay child support.  So far, although we have been successful in gaining parenting time for the psychological parent, the Courts have been reluctant to award child support from the psychological parent.

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