After 19 days of trial, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Wauters issued a 67 page decision addressing this unique custody case 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 long been friends with both spouses, with the intent that all would remain actively involved in raising the child.
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.
The rift between Kitty and Darren & Sam began when Kitty —having met a man with whom she fell in love in Costa Rica, began planning a move to California, where the man lived and she sought to take their child with her.
In March of 2014, Darren & Sam sent Kitty written notification of their objection to her plan to relocate to California with their child and they then filed a complaint 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 amount of time with Kitty in her Point Pleasant Beach home (in NJ) and with Darren & Sam their Princeton NJ home.
In pursuing this matter, it was clear to the court that Darren & Sam sought to have the court create "new law" by granting all 3 parties equal legal status since all 3 were equally involved in raising the child.
The court declined, holding that under the laws of this state, Sam could not be considered a “legal parent” of the child but because of the special position he held in raising the child, could be considered a “psychological parent”. The court also noted that simply because the parties previously agreed to use Sam’s surname on the child's birth certificate, did not mean that he gets to change his legal status in his relationship to the child.
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.