An adult who wants custody of a child but is not their birth parent faces an uphill battle. Courts rarely grant non-parents these rights because it is believed that the birth parents provide the best guidance and most attachments to the children. It is only possible for a non-parent adult to win custody of a child if they can show that they are:
- psychologically the child's guardian, or
- the biological parent(s) are unfit to be parents.
Both of these hurdles are extremely difficult to clear and even if they are met, the non-parent custody must still be shown to be in the child's best interests.
How Can a Person Show That They Are Psychologically The Child's Guardian?
Although this answer may vary by state, the general standards are:
- the biological or legal parent must consent to and foster the relationship between the non-parent and the child
- the non-parent must have lived with the child
- the non-parent must perform parental functions for the child to a significant degree
- a parent-child bond must be forged
- the non-parent may not be a neighbor, caretaker, babysitter, nanny, relative, or family friend
How Can a Biological Parent Be Unfit To Be a Parent?
Extraordinary negative circumstances must be shown for a biological parent to be determined unfit to parent. Factors can include:
- prolonged separation from the child
- emotional or physical abuse
- abandonment of parental rights and duties
- sibling separation
- poor relationship with the child
What Types Of Non-Parent Adults Try To Get Child Custody?
Typically this group includes stepparents or same sex partners because they are most likely to live and form bonds with the child.
Do I Need a Lawyer For My Child Custody Case?
Non-parent custody disputes can be a very bitter area of the law, and it is important that you file all the proper legal paperwork and present your side in the best light. An experienced child custody attorney can help you at all stages of your case and make sure you get the best results possible.