Third-party custody describes when a family court grants someone other than biological parent custody of a child. Although child custody laws in Indiana generally follow the parental preference doctrine, Indiana code section 31-17-2-3(2) recognizes that not all biological parents are either available or able to support the best interests of their child. When this happens, another person may petition a court for child custody.
When Does Third-Party Custody Happen?
Often, an emergency triggers the need for someone to assume custody of a minor. The death of one or both parents or their incapacitation will force the issue. Additionally, the incarceration of one or both parents creates a similar situation. Parents unwilling to care for their child or who have been deemed unfit by a court could also induce the court system to approve custody for a third party.
Who Can Seek Third-Party Custody?
Child custody laws in Indiana allow any “person other than a parent” to petition a family court for third party custody. Therefore, a grandparent, another relative, family friend, or de facto custodian may pursue third party custody. Still, a high burden of proof protects the primary custody rights of biological parents. A family lawyer in Indiana could help you understand whether you might succeed with a third party custody petition.
Some cases are more straightforward than others. For example, biological parents unwilling or unable to provide care might approve of your petition. Without parental approval, however, the law heavily favors the biological parent. You will need to prove that you can meet the best interests of the child when a biological parent cannot. A family lawyer in Indiana might identify evidence that strengthens your position in court.
What Are the Best Interests of the Child?
The best interests of the child describe the legal standards used in custody decisions. They do not pertain simply to who can provide the best standard of living. Family courts will consider many factors, including the age of a child, the quality of relationships with the parents and siblings, parental ability to maintain healthy relationships with the child, parental physical and mental health, a child’s special needs, and parental ability to provide adequate emotional and financial support.
The Role of a Family Lawyer
A family law lawyer at Webster & Garino can explain the legal standards that your third party custody petition must meet. To this end, a lawyer will collect and organize evidence for the court that illustrates your suitability for child custody over that of a biological parent. To meet with a family lawyer in Indiana, please schedule a complimentary case review today at (317) 565-1818.
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