Non-parental Custody

Non-parental/Third Party Custody

A non-parental custody action (or third party custody action) is one brought by individuals who are seeking legal custody of a child of whom they are not a parent. In many cases, this custody request arises when a grandparent or other relative of the child is concerned about their well-being or the child or children are already residing with the relative bringing the petition. A petition for for non-parental custody is typically filed when the child’s welfare in the care of the parent (or current guardian) is questionable.

Allegations of parental unfitness can include negligent behaviors, proclivity to drug or alcohol addictions, inability to physically care for the child due to physical or mental incapacity, including disabilities or age, and other considerations. If a strong case can be made to demonstrate these incapacities or failures on the part of the parents, non-parental or third party custody rights may be established.  

How can child custody by a non-parent be established?

While often difficult to obtain, non-parent child custody can be established. To proceed with a non-parental custody action, an initial allegation of parental unfitness or actual long term detriment to the child must be made. This action must demonstrate how the child is suffering or will suffer actual detriment in the parents’ care. There are a number of procedural steps that need to be taken in a non-parental custody action. Some of these steps include:

  • Filling out forms with your attorney, such as confidential information forms, non-parental custody petitions, financial declarations, a motion for temporary nonparental custody order, and more. Your family divorce attorney will help you to determine which forms will be applicable to your situation. There are filing fees and court costs, though the judge may waive a portion of the fee if you cannot afford to pay the full amount.
  • Preparation for and setting the date of your Adequate Cause Hearing. Because the legal standard for taking a child permanently away from a parent is high, there are a number of procedural forms to fill out and parties to contact. This can be very confusing for individuals, so the assistance of a family law attorney will be greatly beneficial for the applicant.
  • Completion of a parenting seminar.
  • Attend and present final documentation and forms at the final hearing.
Establishing Non-Parental Custody Rights

The legal standard for permanently removing a child from a parent’s custody in favor of a non-parent is understandably quite high. However, there are many circumstances that may warrant a non-parental being granted custody of a child. At Anderson Hunter Family Law Firm, we have much experience in child custody change and third party custody cases.

If the current parent or guardian agrees to a change of custody rights, the process is substantially easier, but still requires all legal requirements be met. This process is complex. If the parent or current guardian contests your application for third party custody, the process becomes even more complex and difficult. The emotional and legal complexities and challenges that you will have to face are best not faced alone — we can help you through the process and your effort to ensure the safety of the child in your life by giving you all the assistance and support that you need.

If you are concerned about a child in your life, contact AH and find out what options you have for. Our experience with third party cases and custody modification in Washington make us a valuable asset for your custody petition. Attorneys Laurie Ummel and Geoff Gibbs have years of experience in this area and offer free consultations to help you examine your options. Contact us today to discuss your third party custody case today.


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