Latin Legal Terms: In Loco Parentis

In loco parentis is a Latin term that means "in the place of a parent." It's a legal doctrine that applies to situations where an individual or entity assumes the responsibilities and functions of a parent.

The in loco parentis doctrine is particularly relevant in family law cases where a non-biological parent has assumed the role of a parent. For example, if a step-parent has been acting as a child's parent for a significant period of time, they may be able to establish legal rights and obligations as a parent through the in loco parentis doctrine.

It's important to note that the in loco parentis doctrine does not create a legal parent-child relationship. Instead, it's a legal fiction that allows a court to treat someone who is not a legal parent as if they were a parent for certain legal purposes. The extent of the rights and obligations that arise under the in loco parentis doctrine will depend on the specific facts of each case.


To establish that someone is “in loco parentis”, the individual generally must show that they have assumed the responsibilities and functions of a parent, and that the child has come to rely on them as a parent. This can include providing for the child's basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing, as well as providing emotional support and guidance. Importantly, the absence of the actual parent is usually necessary for an in loco parentis finding.