Families today do not look one way. Many children are raised by at least one person who is not biologically related to them but fills the role of a parent in their life. In these cases, the unrelated person may legally be known as a “psychological parent”, 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. (quoting In re Marriage of Martin, 42 P.3d 75, 77-78 (Colo. App. 2002)).
What happens, though, when a phycological parent petitions the court to have parental responsibilities for the child including child support? Do they have any financial responsibility for the care of the child?
In the case In re APR of A.C.H , the court was asked to determine whether a psychological parent, who obtained a parenting time and decision-making responsibility order for his former girlfriend’s biological child, could also be ordered to pay child support for that child.
In the case of A.C.H. 2019 COA 43, the couple moved in together in 2006 with the mother’s three-year-old son. One year later, the couple had a daughter and lived together as a family for four years, until they broke up. After the split, the couple agreed to an equal parenting time schedule with both of the children. Six years after the split, Mother petitioned the court, seeking permission to move to Texas and to grant an allocation of parental responsibility with respect to the parties’ joint child, their daughter.
Father then petitioned the court, requesting an allocation of parental responsibilities regarding Mother’s son.
Father claimed that he was the psychological parent of the son. The parties eventually agreed that Father was the phycological parent of the son, that Mother could move to Texas, and the father would have parental rights regarding both children.
Mother then requested child support from the father for both of the children.
The trial court concluded that they could not impose a child support obligation on Father with respect to Mother’s son.
The case was then heard by the Colorado Court of Appeals. When reviewing the case, the Court looked at other states’ laws for guidance and concluded that psychological parents could be obligated to pay child support. The Court of Appeals clarified that their opinion was limited to cases where psychological parents who have (1) established themselves as “parents,” rather than “guardians”; and (2) sought and received an intended-to-be-permanent allocation of parental responsibilities.
Why is this case so significant? This case establishes that you do not have to be a biological relative or adoptive parent to have the legal obligation to pay child support. If you believe that you may be a phycological parent and are considering filing for an allocation of parental responsibilities, you should speak with a family law attorney as soon as possible. At GEM Family Law, our seasoned attorneys can help you understand your rights and options.
Authored by: Kristin Day, J.D. Candidate 2020