Third party custody or non-parental custody can be granted to an individual who is seeking child custody but is not the child’s legal parent. Generally, this custody request arises when a grandparent or other close family relative of the child is concerned about the child’s wellbeing. Additionally, sometimes a parent is unwilling, unfit, or unable to take care of a child. In this instance, a third party can seek custody of the child.
Who Is Eligible for Third Party Custody?
A third party that already has a pre-existing relationship with the child can seek custody if the biological parent(s) cannot provide adequate care for the child.
The individuals who can apply for third party custody are:
- Grandparents and great-grandparents
- A person standing in loco parentis (in place of)
- Any individual willing to assume responsibility of the child who has a sustained, substantial, and sincere interest in the welfare of the child (so long as neither parent has no form of care or control over the child).
Determining Factors for Establishing Third Party Custody
Each case is different, so it is helpful to work with an experienced lawyer to ensure you understand your options. The court considers the best interests of the child before awarding child custody. The factors that impact the best interest of the child standard include but are not limited to the following:
- The child’s physical and mental wellbeing
- Which party is the primary caretaker
- Which party is best able to provide a loving, stable environment for the child
- If there is a history of violence or abuse
- The child’s interests (depending on age)
- Which party will encourage continued contact between the child and other members of the family
- The party’s ability to provide for the child
- The party’s income (if the individual can provide for the child’s basic needs)
What Rights Does a Third-Party Individual Have in a Custody Case?
Non-parental custody rights are determined in an order issued by the court. These rights are not always the same rights a child’s parents are given. This order will decide whether the custody granted will be temporary or permanent, whether the child’s parent can visit their child, and whether the third party can provide for the child and maintain his/her best interests.
As custody orders are complicated and getting third party custody granted is difficult, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney beforehand. An attorney can also help you understand the provisions of your court order and how to ensure they are enforced properly.
For help with your third-party custody case, complete a form onlineor call us directly at (412) 693-6681.
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