Third-party custody is typically defined as custody of a child for a nonparent. Before a person can be awarded third-party custody, the state must first consider a number of factors. Generally, third-party custody happens when the biological parents no longer want custody of a child, or the biological parents are incapable of properly caring for the child.
Standing to Petition
Most states require a standing for petition in order for a third-party to seek custody of a child. The nonparent seeking custody will need to have an established relationship with the child before they can petition for child custody.
A de facto custodian can also have standing in a custody case. If a child has lived with a person for an extended period of time before the custody petition, they might be considered a de facto custodian who can petition the court. De facto custodians usually stand in for parents who aren’t around for their children.
Immediate family members such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or older sibling, can be considered a suitable third-party custodian. In some situations, a godparent, family friend, or neighbor can also petition for third-party custody.
When Do Courts Consider a Third-Party for Custody?
Nonparents can petition for child custody under limited circumstances. One example would be if the nonparent believes the child will be in danger or suffer harm while they are with their biological parents. Situations involving child abuse or substance abuse might make a nonparent eligible to petition for custody. Abandoning or neglecting a child might also result in a court deciding to award custody to a third-party.
Factors for Deciding Third-Party Custody
Before custody can be awarded to a third-party, a court will first consider a number of different factors. The main factor that courts consider is what they believe the best interest of the child is. When the child in question is older, the court will look at what living conditions the child would prefer. If the child’s biological parent petitions for a third-party custodian, the court will heavily weigh that when making its decision.
Courts also consider the child's relationship with the third party, their school, home, and community life, and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, loving home. The ability of the custodian to provide for the child financially and emotionally is also a major factor in a court’s decision.
Do you need help obtaining third-party custody of a loved one? We can help. Call (704) 343-8811, or contact our Charlotte team of divorce attorneys to discuss your case today.