3 Important Facts About Third Party Custody

A child living with their biological parent is the ideal arrangement. However, if a parent is going through a difficult time it may be necessary to start a third party custody matter so the child can benefit from a safe and stable home. It’s not uncommon for grandparents or other family members to seek custody, but there are some important facts you should know before pursuing a third party custody case.

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1. De Facto Custodians & Interested Third Parties Are Eligible

A third-party custody action can be initiated in Minnesota courts by two different types of people: interested third parties or de facto custodians.

A de facto custodian is someone who has been the primary caretaker of the child for a specific period of time within the 24 months before filing a petition, and with whom the child has resided without a parent present and without consistent participation by the parent for a certain period of time.

An interested third party is someone who is not able to meet the definition of a de facto custodian, but who can show that the parent has abandoned or neglected the child or that the child is in danger with the parent, and that placing the child with them is a better option.

2. Many Factors Go Into The Court’s Decision

The court will take many factors into consideration in a third party custody case. It considers the reasons a child should not live with her or his biological parent as well as the amount of involvement the parents have had, what relationship the child has to the potential guardian, and how well the child might adjust.

3. Third Party Custody Must Be In The Child’s Best Interest

In order for third party custodianship to be granted, it must be in the best interest of the child. Criteria for approval are high, which means the arrangement must be necessary to spare the child harm or to provide a more stable environment. The court considers a number of factors, specific to third party custody cases, such as the wishes of the parents, the desirability of maintaining continuity, the child’s primary caretaker, and other factors.

The court may even choose separate guardians for different areas of the child’s life. A third party custodian might share joint physical or joint legal custody with a biological parent, or he or she may have sole physical custody, sole legal custody, or both. Physical custody refers to the right to control the routine daily care of the child and the residence of the child. Legal custody refers to the right to determine the child’s upbringing, including education, health care and religious training.

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