Non-Parental Custody FAQ

Written by Jonathan Breeden

July 5, 2018

Also known as third-party custody, non-parental custody is when an adult other than a child’s parents is granted custody. Non-parental custody may be appropriate in several situations, including when a child’s parents have passed away, are negligent, abusive or cannot care for their child for any other reason. Since this type of custody can be complicated, we’ve compiled this useful list of frequently asked questions.

If you have a case that involves non-parental custody, it is in your best interest to consult a North Carolina child custody attorney at Breeden Law Office. Contact us today at (919) 661-4970 to schedule a consultation regarding your case.

Common Questions Regarding Non-Parental Custody

If you’re considering fighting for custody of a minor who is not your biological child, you likely have a number of questions, including:

When can a third party seek custody of a child?
A third party may pursue child custody if they:

  • Have assumed parental duties or share a parent-like relationship with the child
  • Have a biological or adoptive relationship with the child, and the child’s biological parents are unfit or unwilling to care for them

What factors do courts look before awarding non-parental custody?
There are a number of factors courts consider before awarding custody to a third party. They will look at what is in the best interests of the child. If the child is older, the court will ask them their wishes are. Additionally, if the child’s biological parent has a preference, the court will take that into consideration.

How will courts determine what is in the best interests of a child?
To determine the custody arrangement that is in the best interests of a child, the courts will examine the relationship each parent shares with the child, the living situations of each parent, whether either parent has a problem with alcohol or substance abuse, whether there is a history of domestic violence, where the child currently lives, and whether each parent is able to provide the child with a stable and safe living environment.

What happens if a third party does not have a relationship with the child?
Not all third parties are able to petition for custody of a child. A non-parent must prove a sufficient, parent-like relationship with the child. If they do not have one, non-parental custody cannot be awarded.

How can a third party demonstrate a sufficient, parent-like relationship with the child?
To establish that they have a sufficient, parent-like relationship with a child, a third party must show that they assumed parental duties for a period of time and are emotionally attached to the child. This can be shown if they drive the child to school, attend parent-teacher conferences, purchase clothing and other necessities for the child, or take them to medical appointments. It is often important in most judges’ minds that the child has lived in your home for a period of time, either with or without a biological parent.

How can a third party show that a child’s biological parents are unfit?
In order to be awarded custody, a third party must provide evidence that shows that the child’s biological parents are unfit to care for them. The criminal records of a child’s biological parents, medical records that prove the child has been abused, or testimony from a social worker or a close friend or family member who has witnessed neglect can all serve as evidence.

How does North Carolina view the rights of biological parents?
In North Carolina, biological parents have the right to parent, care for, and control their children. The state will only take away these rights under extreme circumstances. If a biological parent has a minor alcohol problem or yells at their child occasionally, they will likely be allowed to keep them.

When can grandparents file a custody case?
If a child’s parents are unfit, their grandparents may file a new custody case. However, if there is already a custody case present between the parents, the grandparents will need to intervene. In order to do so, they will have to prove they have a substantial relationship with the child, and that the parents are, indeed, unfit.

How can grandparents win a custody case?
There are certain factors that make biological parents unfit to care for their child. To win custody of a grandchild, grandparents must demonstrate that a child’s biological parents are mentally ill or unstable, cannot financially care for the child, have abused drugs, have put the child in a dangerous place, or abandoned the child for a period of time.

Can non-parental custody be modified?
Although custody agreements in North Carolina are intended to be final, they can be modified. If an individual who has non-parental custody wishes to modify their agreement, they will be required to provide the court with strong supporting evidence as to why they wish to make a change.

Are aunts, uncles, siblings, and other adult relatives allowed to request custody of a child?
While aunts, uncles, siblings, and other adult relatives may request custody of a child, they will only be granted it if they can prove that securing custody is in a child’s best interests.

Is a child’s stepparent automatically granted custody?
Contrary to popular belief, a stepparent is not automatically granted custody. To obtain custody rights as a stepparent, a stepparent will be required to legally adopt the child while they are married to the child’s biological parent.

What if a stepparent does not wish to adopt a child?
If a stepparent does not wish to adopt a child in order to apply for custody, they cannot make vital decisions regarding the child’s medical care, education, religion, and other key issues in their life. They can, however, influence the court’s decision about who receives custody of their stepchild by showing evidence that a biological parent or blood relative should not be granted custody. They can try to get custody for themselves if they can show both biological parents are unfit like any other-third party trying to get custody as described above.

Contact Breeden Law Office Today

If you would like to obtain non-parental custody of a child, it is important to consult a skilled North Carolina family attorney. At Breeden Law Office, we can assist you in understanding how to prove that a child’s parents are unfit to care for them, and show that you can provide a safe and stable living environment for the minor.

If you have additional questions related to non-parental custody, contact us today at (919) 661-4970 to schedule a case evaluation with attorney Jonathan Breeden.


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