Generally speaking, when a custody battle ensues, it is the parents that are fighting for custody rights of their children. However, in some instances, third-party individuals such as grandparents, aunts and uncles or other loved ones become involved in the child custody process. Here, the qualified child custody attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss the process of third-party custody cases, and how these individuals can ensure that their rights are enacted. 

When Will a Court Consider a Third Party?

Generally, when going through a custody case, courts try to keep children under the care of their parents. However, in some cases, third-party intervention is in the best interest of the children, and another family member or loved one is granted custody of the children. A non-parent may petition the Court for custody for various reasons. For example, if the individual fears that the children may be in danger or suffer harm at the hands of a parent, or be neglected by the parent for long periods of time, the Court may consider a third-party custodian. It is important to note that each child custody case is unique and that many factors are taken into consideration by the Courts when deciding where the child will reside. In order to be awarded custody a third party must first prove either parental unfitness or exceptional circumstances and then the court considers the best interest of the child in making a custody determination.

What Additional Factors Go Into Third-party Custody Decisions?

When determining the child’s best interest the courts take into consideration the relationship the child has with the third-party, as well as the impact this move will have on the child’s social and educational growth. For example, courts will generally consider how long the child has lived in a loving home, and the financial and emotional assistance the third-party individual can provide to the child. In July of 2016, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled to increase rights afforded to third party individuals that meet the criteria of “de facto” parents. In the state of Maryland, the Court sets forth the factors that a third-party must prove in order to be considered a “de facto” parent. The factors are:

  • the biological or adoptive parent must have consented to and fostered a “parent-like” relationship between the child and “de facto” parent
  • the child and the “de facto” parent must have lived together in the same household
  • the “de facto” parent must have assumed parental obligations, taken significant responsibility for the child’s care, education and development, and contributed financially towards the child’s support without expectation of compensation (not a babysitter, etc.)
  • the “de facto” parent must have served in a parental role for long enough to have established bond with the child that is akin to the bond between a parent and child. 

Learn more about “de facto” parenting here.

Consult The Bel Air Divorce Attorneys at Rodier Family Law Today

If you are a third-party individual or non-parent fighting for custody, consulting with a legal team such as the qualified attorneys at Rodier Family Law can help you execute your rights and protect the children you are fighting for. To learn more about the child custody process in Maryland and discuss your rights contact the Harford County attorneys at Rodier Family Law today