When other family members have a vested stake and interest in the well-being of the child, and in the custody of that child, it is considered a “third-party custody” case. These proceedings will cover many of the same issues as traditional parental custody cases. The interested third party shouldn’t attempt to litigate this on their own. You need a seasoned professional helping you navigate the intricacies of the family court system.
The Specifics of Third-Party Custody
Third-party custody refers to custody cases that involve a person other than a parent petitioning the court for custody. This is an extraordinary step and not one the courts will take lightly. Family courts prefer to keep parent/child relationships intact when possible. But there are situations where the parents of a child are either not available or are not able to continue as custodians. That is when a third-party could step forward and position the court for physical and/or legal custody of a child. However, there are still qualifications one must meet to petition the court under the third-party custody statute.
De facto custodian – A de facto custodian is a person who has been a primary caretaker for the child within the last 24 months of the filing. If the child is under three years old, to be a de facto custodian, he or she must have lived with you, without a parent present and without consistent participation from a parent, for at least six months, which need not be consecutive. If the child is three years old or older, he or she must have lived with you, without a parent present and without consistent participation from a parent, for at least one year, which need not be consecutive.
Interested third party – An interested third party is someone who does not meet the qualifications of a de facto custodian but has other information to bring to the court. An interested third party must also be able to meet one of a number of other factors, including that the parent has abandoned or neglected the child, placement of the child takes priority over the parent-child relationship, or there are other extraordinary circumstances. The person must also show that it is in the child’s best interest that he or she have custody.
There are many things that can fall under these umbrellas. Consult with your legal counsel to determine the best steps for your third-party custody case.
What Happens During A Third-Party Custody Case?
One of the ways a third-party custody case could be triggered is from neglect or abuse. In those cases, a Child in Need of Protective Services (CHIPS) case may be initiated separately from a third-party custody case. CHIPS cases deal with removing a child from the custody of their parent(s).
Issues covered during a third-party custody case can include the following:
- Sole or joint legal custody of the minor child
- Physical custody of the child
- Length and supervision level of parental visitation
- Child support
- Other issues that deal with the best interest of the child
When Is Third-Party Custody Appropriate?
It can seem unfathomable that it is in the best interest of a child to take them away from their parents. But situations can arise that make a parent temporarily not the best person to parent and guide a child. In those cases, another adult can step in and provide that stability for the child.
Third-party custody cases may involve a parent who is incarcerated or struggling with chemical dependency. It may also be appropriate where a parent has neglected or abandoned a child, or where a child has been abused by a parent.
Remember that third-party custody is permanent. If the parent is later able or willing to obtain custody of the child, custody would have to be revisited in court. Parents should be aware of this before agreeing that a third-party is a de facto custodian or interested third-party. Other custodial arrangements could be made for temporary situations where a parent needs help.
Seek Top Notch Representation For Your Third-Party Custody Hearing
Don’t attempt to argue your third-party custody case without the best representation by your side. Perusse Nixon will work with you every step of the way on your case. Follow us on Facebook to keep up with the latest news on family law. To get started on your case, contact us today to schedule a consultation.