The parental preference rule is one used in child custody cases; it follows the principle of granting a fit biological parent custody over a non-biological parent. This rule protects fit biological parents who are willing and able to care for their children, by giving them priority of custody over anyone else. The rule is also known as the “parental preference doctrine” or the “parental superior rights doctrine”.

If a party challenges a custody arrangement against a biological parent, they must prove that the parent is not fit to care for the child. In this instance, there must be strong, substantial evidence showing that the parent is unwilling or able to care for the child.

When is the Parental Preference Rule Used?

Generally, the parental preference rule is applied in most child custody cases. The court tends to support the notion of biological parents caring for their own children. If a third party wishes to challenge this rule, they must prove that the child’s best interests would be better served by them, rather than the biological parent.

If the third party can prove any instances of abuse, neglect, and/or active drug or alcohol addiction by the parent(s), then the court will not rely on parental preference.

How Does the Rule Interact with the Child’s Best Interest Standard?

The child’s best interest standard is usually the law of the land in custody cases. For instance, if the child’s best interest would be to stay with a grandparent, then the court will deviate from the parental preference rule and leave the child with the grandparent.

Even if the child may prefer to stay with a parent instead of the grandparent, the best interest standard will require the court to focus on the overall welfare, safety, and long-term benefits for the child. Ultimately, the court has a duty to protect the child, and it will do its best to make judgments with the child’s best interest standard at the forefront.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Advice Regarding the Parental Preference Rule?

If you have a child custody issue, you may want to contact a local child custody lawyer. Laws vary from state to state, various rules and doctrines may come into play, and attempting to challenge a court order on your own can be very difficult. A qualified lawyer in your area can advise you on your legal options, as well as represent your best interests in court.