Family Law Scholarship Goes to Court: Functional Parenthood and the Case of Debra H. v. Janice R.

Goldberg, Suzanne B.

A Partial Victory the decision in Debra H. v.\n Id.87 North Carolina's appellate court also applied the same basic features in Mason v. Dwinnell. Although it did not articulate a specific test, the court accorded a functional parent standing to seek custody, looking to (1) the couple's agreement to share in "all major decisions regarding their child"; (2) the functional parent's deliberate assumption of "emotional and financial care and support, guidance and decision-making" to the point of "equal participation"; and (3) the functional parent's "psychological parenting relationship" with the child.89 Thus while some states call mothers like Debra H. a de facto or psychological parent, some find that she stands in loco parentis or that exceptional circumstances warrant standing, and some prefer not to rely on strict terms or tests.


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Columbia Journal of Gender and the Law

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Columbia University, School of Law
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October 19, 2015