Nurturing-Parent Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

Nurturing parent doctrine is a principle of family law that recognizes that when a parent elects to stay at home with a young child, he or she may be excused from contributing to support. According to this principle the court will not impute income to a custodial parent who remains at home or works less than full-time in order to provide a better environment for a child. However, the doctrine is fact-specific and the nurturing parent status is left to a case by case assessment by the finder of fact. Application of the doctrine often places all responsibility for the child's support on the child's father by allowing mother to be held to a zero earning capacity.

A court is not strictly bound by the nurturing parent's assertion that the best interest of the child is served by the parent's presence in the home. It is for the trial court to determine the child's best interest. But that court must balance several factors before it can expect the nurturing parent to seek employment. Among those factors are the age and maturity of the child; the availability and adequacy of others who might assist the custodian-parent; the adequacy of available financial resources if the custodian-parent does remain in the home. While not dispositive, the custodian-parent's perception that the welfare of the child is served by having a parent at home is to be accorded significant weight in the trial court's calculation of its support order. [Commonwealth ex rel. Wasiolek v. Wasiolek, 251 Pa. Super. 108 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1977)]