When an individual who is not the child’s parent seeks access to a minor child, this is known as third-party custody. Generally, third-party custody only occurs when the child’s biological parents either do not wish to care for the child or are incapable of providing the care the child needs. However, there are many circumstances that could warrant granting a third party either visitation or custody. There are no grandparent or family member rights, and so any person not a parent stands on equal footing and must demonstrate they have standing to request custody.
Third-Party Custody and Parent Presumption
If the child’s parents are disputing the petition for third-party custody, there is a presumption that the child’s best interest are served by granting custody to the parent. As mentioned above, however, this presumption can be rebutted under certain special circumstances. If the third party who is seeking custody can rebut the parental presumption and show that awarding the child’s parents custody would not serve the best interest of the child, a judge may grant third-party custody.
The parental presumption can be rebutted upon a showing of unfitness of the parents to provide care, that exceptional circumstances warrant an order granting a third party custody, or upon a demonstration that the third party can legally qualify as a de facto parent.
Being granted third-party custody rights does not terminate the rights of the child’s parents nor does it prevent the parents from visiting or communicating with the child as long as it is within the boundaries of the third-party custody award. Additionally, much like any other child custody arrangement, when an individual is granted third-party custody, the order is subject to modification. Therefore, if there is a substantial and material change in circumstances, it is possible for the child’s parents to regain custody.
Discuss the Details of Your Third-Party Custody Case with an Experienced Family Law Attorney
Whether you are seeking third-party custody or you are fighting against a third-party petition for custody of your child, it is essential to hire an experienced family law attorney to represent your case and guide you through every step of the process. At Matthew Penick Law, our family law attorney has been guiding families through some of the most delicate legal matters for more than a decade with successful results. Our team will develop personalized legal strategies and tailored solutions to ensure you receive the best possible results for your third-party custody case.
Reach out to our law office today at (410) 618-0863 to set up a free initial consultation and learn more about your options and how we can assist you.