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Third Party Custody

Factors Considered in a Third Party Child Custody Determination


Third party custody is often defined as custody of a child involving a non-parent. Each state considers a number of factors prior to determining child custody to a third party. Here is some information for parents, grandparents or any other person who is considering a custodial arrangement that involves a nonparent.

Third Party Standing

Many states require a third party to have standing to petition for custody of a child meaning courts require a nonparent to have an established relationship with a child, prior to petitioning for custody. States will find the following nonparents to have standing in a custody suit:

  • A de facto custodian- a person with whom the child has resided for an extended period of time, prior to the custody petition with a lack a participation from the child's parents

Examples of Appropriate Third Party Custodians

  • Immediate family members including grandparents, aunts or uncles or older siblings
  • In certain circumstances, a court will find a godparent, family friend or neighbor to have standing

A nonparent may petition a court for custody of a child under certain, limited circumstances including if:

  • The child will be in danger or may suffer harm in the care of a parent
  • The child's parent has abandoned or neglected the child for an extended period of time
  • Granting custody to a third party is in the best interests of the child
  • Other extraordinary circumstances exist as deemed relevant by the court

Third Party Custody Factors

Prior to awarding custody to a third party, a court will consider the following factors:

  • Best interests of the child
  • Wishes of the child
  • Wishes of the parent(s)
  • Child's relationship with the third-party
  • Child's adjustment to school, home and community
  • Length of time the child has lived in a stable, loving home
  • Nonparent's ability to provide for the child, financially and emotionally

For more information about third party custody, refer to your state's statute on child custody or speak with a qualified attorney in your home state.

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