What is Third Party Custody?    

Non-parental or third party custody actions involve someone other than the child’s biological or legal parent filing a court action to seek custody of a child because neither parent is fit to provide for, care, nurture or parent the child without serious risk to the child. These are extremely difficult and complicated legal actions. The burden of proof requires actual proof of the parents’ inability to care for the child, whether it is incarceration, drug addiction, mental illness, or homelessness.

Possible Court Actions:  

The court presumes that it is in the best interest of a child to remain with his or her parents. In some cases, the parent or parents may agree that they cannot care for the child and agree that the child should be placed in the primary custody of a third party, such as a grandparent. An order may be entered that provides for visitation with the parents or conditions that the parents must follow through with in order to visit.

In some cases, Children’s Protective Services is involved and the children have been declared dependent and placed with a relative. In those cases, the parents have been given an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and have not. The court is interested in a permanent plan for the child and continue placement of the child with a third party relative pursuant to an actual court order. In these cases, the parents’ unfitness has already been investigated and established, making it easier to pursue a non-parental custody action in superior court.