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How does the FMLA define a parent-child relationship?

Families come in all sorts of configurations. Of course, there is the so-called traditional family household, which consists of a mother, a father and children. But in today's society, there are actually a wide variety of ways in which people form family units. There are households that are headed by same-sex couples. There are also households that are amalgamations of previous marriages. And still other families include adopted children, foster children and stepchildren.

In short, there is no narrow definition of what constitutes a legitimate family. And at some point, it is possible that a working member of a family must take time off the job in order to care for his or her child. Fortunately, the Family and Medical Leave Act accounts for the various manifestations of parent-child relationships.

The FMLA employs the concept of "in loco parentis" when defining a parent-child relationship. Essentially, if an individual is in the position of issuing parental care and having parental responsibilities, it is said that the individual has an in loco parentis relationship with that child.

This means that a person acting as the parent of a stepchild, adopted child, legal ward, biological child or as part of some other similar caregiving relationship, should be eligible for the job-protecting benefits of the FMLA.

But there are sometimes factors that must be taken into account when determining if a person has a valid in loco parentis relationship with a child. And it is possible an employer may not allow you to take advantage of your FMLA rights if the relationship is not clearly established.

If you are having difficulty getting a leave of absence from work because your employer does not accept that you have a legal parental relationship with your child, you may wish to discuss the issue with an FMLA attorney. The attorney could work to help clarify your relationship with the child in an effort to protect your FMLA rights.

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