Simply put, third-party custody means that someone other than the biological or adoptive parents has legal custody of a minor child. In Washington state, this is known as non-parental custody. Most of these are custody cases where a grandparent has a grandchild. But, often, other relatives step in to provide custody of a child when necessary.
All custody cases are complex and can be weighed down with emotion and stress. Non-custodial custody is fraught with even more difficulties. They are legally complex to maneuver and require even more evidence than custody cases between parents to make them work.
Grandparents are Most Often the Non-parental Custodians
Grandparents who intend to pursue non-parental custody have to do far more than state their opinion that their child, daughter, or son-in-law are bad parents. They must prove that the parents cannot properly care for their grandchildren.
Strong Evidence is Necessary
To prove that custody of a child should be in the hands of a non-custodial parent, that person has to prove that the child’s parent is unfit. This means they are emotionally, financially, or physically incapable of caring for their child.
Strong evidence must be shown to the court to convince them that the environment the child is living in is harmful to the child. Proof of the following must exist:
The parent’s home is unsafe physically.
The child’s home is damaging them emotionally.
Psychological well-being is damaged or neglected in their home.
Solid evidence of the parent’s neglect, abuse, or inability to parent must be shown to the court. Their refusal to provide a safe environment for the child is difficult to prove. And even when a third party is given custody, the decision can be reversed.
When and Why are Third-Party Custodial Orders Overturned?
There are times when a third-party custodial case can be changed. This can be traumatic, and it can feel like the whole process was for nothing. Speaking to a family law attorney can make clear the options and the risks when fighting for the best interest of a child that you feel is in an undesirable situation.
There are three ways that a non-parental custody case can be reversed.
One way this happens is if the deciding judge allows for a request to vacate or a motion for reconsideration is made by a biological parent after a proposed period of time.
A biological parent could go the appellate route and file their appeal within 30 days of the court’s decision. It can take years to overturn a decision, though.
The biological parent can prove that their circumstances have been substantially modified and bring a petition before the court.
The Best Interest of the Child
We understand that taking on the responsibility of raising someone else’s child is a duty that is only entered into when the child’s best interest is at stake. If you feel compelled to pursue a third-party custodial arrangement, contact Cohen Family Law, LLC. We specialize in child custody cases.