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The Divorce Encyclopedia
In Loco Parentis

Term Definition In Loco Parentis - a Latin phrase meaning "in place or in lieu of a parent."
Application in Divorce The term is used when grandparents and stepparents litigate custody or visitation rights. In divorce actions, in loco parentis may happen when grandparents or stepparents act in place of the natural parents. Normally, this is on a temporary basis and is not considered adoption or a preliminary toward adoption.

Any in loco parentis actions by third parties, including grandparents and stepparents, should be put in the larger context of established practice.

In general, courts show a strong bias against separating children from their natural parents, who are said to have a liberty interest in them and in their upbringing. This means that unless a child’s parents are grossly incompetent, that child will remain with one of them after a divorce. Moreover, in most divorce actions, children are awarded to the mother, particularly during their young years.

In general, courts construe the best interest of the child doctrine to mean the preservation of the child’s relationship with his or her parents to the maximum extent possible.

The term in loco parentis can be applied when any adult intervenes in the supervision of a minor in the absence of his or her parents on an ad hoc basis.

See also Visitation Rights, Grandparent’s; Maternal Preference.

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