Third-Party Child Custody Rights

In some situations, courts may grant custody to third parties like grandparents, close relatives or other close friends with whom he child is familiar. The last 20 years have seen a significant increase in the rights of non-parents who wish to seek visitation and custody rights of children that have divorced parents.

Non-parental custodial rights can come into play in situations such as:

  • Custody proceedings in which a judge believes that neither parent is fit to be the primary custodian of the child
  • One of the custodial parents has passed away and a third party demonstrates that the surviving parent is not fit for custodial duties
  • When the child in question has already been in the custody of a third party for an extended period of time

The biggest barrier for third parties to overcome in these cases is the “parental preference rule,” in which parents who are legally fit and able to care for their child have the paramount right to retain custody. Anyone seeking custody must overcome this rule.

Grandparents are the most common third parties to petition for custody of children based on the best interests of the child. However, grandparents will have no legal right to the child if the court determines that the parent is fit for duty. Courts cannot award custody to grandparents just because they would be better guardians for the child. Stepparents, aunts and uncles, companions of deceased parents and former companions of living parents are also common choices for custodial guardians in third-party custody cases.

If you require legal representation as you seek child custody rights in New York, consult the experienced Long Island attorneys at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates.

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