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Non-Parent Third Parties & Child Custody

Many child custody cases involve biological parents, a child’s father and mother, who negotiate agreements or abide by court orders regarding custody rights and visitation arrangements. In many cases, however, people other than a child’s biological father or mother may wish to seek custody. Depending on the situation, these third party non-parents can be granted child custody rights.

At Moskowitz Law Group, LLC our New Jersey family law attorneys understand that families come in all shapes in sizes. Having worked with a diverse clientele throughout the years, many of our clients were part of families that varied from the traditional structure of mother, father, and children. Because third parties, such as extended family members or family friends, can play the same roles as biological parents in helping children grow and mature, we are passionate about helping them protect their rights when pursuing custody of a child.

Third party custody generally occurs in one of two ways:

  • A biological parent, or parents, do not want custody of their children.
  • Biological parents are not capable of providing and caring for a child.

Because all family law matters involving children are centered on the best interests of a child, it is common for third party custody to arise in matters where parents are incapable of providing the care and support children need. This is common not only in the case of abandonment, but also in cases involving domestic violence and abuse, criminal involvement, substance abuse, and other situations where parental custody may pose dangers and is not in a child’s best interests.

Family courts will grant custody, and potentially visitation rights depending on the individual, to non-parent third parties when it can be shown that doing so is in the best interests of the child. Third parties will need to demonstrate their standing in order to petition for child custody, which means they must show that there is an established relationship with the child and that the relationship is one which benefits the child. In many cases, this standing is proven when children have lived in a stable, loving home with non-parents prior to the custody petition, such as when a child lives with another family member other than their parents.

All cases are unique, but third party custody typically involves the following people:

  • Grandparents
  • Aunts / Uncles
  • Older Siblings
  • Godparent / family friends

In addition to evaluating the relationship between a third party and a child when awarding custody, courts will also consider other factors, including the wishes of a child (if they are old enough), a child’s adjustment to a new home or community, the third party’s ability to provide for the child emotionally and financially, the length of time the child has resided in a stable home, and more. Family courts may also require third parties seeking custody to undergo a drug test and may consider past drug or criminal convictions when making determinations.

Ultimately, our family law system understands that families are diverse and that many non-traditional families can provide the type of support children need as they grow. This is why non-parents can play a significant role in custody proceedings, and why it is important for non-parents seeking custody to work with experienced family lawyers who can help them effectively protect their rights and the best interests of the children involved. As a firm that has helped numerous families navigate the custody and visitation matters across New Jersey and New York, our team at Moskowitz Law Group, LLC knows grandparents, relatives, and other third parties can provide loving and supportive homes.

If you have questions regarding your custody rights as a grandparent, guardian, or other third party, our legal team is readily available to help. Contact us to request a free consultation.