Family Law

Judge settles dispute over whether a child can call a stepparent 'Mom'

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Children have few rights of self-determination, but they should be able to decide whether to call a stepparent “Mom” if they are mature enough to make the decision, a New Jersey judge has ruled.

Judge Lawrence Jones ruled after a woman identified as “T.S.” objected because her 8-year-old son was beginning to call her ex-husband’s fiancee “Mom,” the New Jersey Law Journal (sub. req.) reports. T.S. also opposed her ex-husband’s desire to have his fiancee become more involved in parental decisions.

The father and T.S. shared legal custody, though the father had primary custody. The parents, as well as the father’s fiancee, played a positive role in the boy’s life, Jones said in a June opinion, which was released on Dec. 11.

Jones said the father may consult with the fiancee for her opinion on matters, but the father and mother must make the final decisions. But the child gets to make the decision on what to call his father’s finance, Jones said in the opinion.

“At this challenging point in his growth and development, he certainly does not need his parents, or a stepparent, or the court, hoisting further unnecessary burdens upon his fragile shoulders by micromanaging his words and thoughts, or commanding him how to address his stepparent in order to please his mother or father,” Jones wrote.

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