Basic Child Custody Laws for Non-Parents and Unmarried Parents

Issues of child custody don’t always result from legal separation or divorce. There are some specific circumstances wherein physical and legal child custody could be an issue the court. In general, these child custody cases involve non-parents, unmarried parents, and grandparents.

Child custody for unmarried parents

If you’re a father but are unmarried to your child’s mother, you don’t have visitation rights or any rights whatsoever, even if your name is on your child’s birth certificate. It’s at the mother’s discretion to grant you visitation time with your child, but she could also revoke your visitations should she wish to. For you to have legal rights for visitation, you need to file a petition so that the court could establish your visitation rights, advises a top child custody lawyer in Marysville.

Child custody for non-parents

If you’re a non-parent—close relative, grandparent, or close family friend—you could get child custody under specific circumstances. This is referred to as non-parental or third-party child custody. But since a child’s natural or biological parent has primary legal rights to child custody of their children, for you to obtain custody, the following must be proven in court:

  • None of the biological parents of the child is “legally fit” to care for the child; and
  • Keeping the child in the custody of the biological parents would be detrimental to the overall development and growth of the child.

These circumstances are usually due to the following factors:

  • Child abuse,
  • Alcohol and/or substance abuse,
  • Child abandonment,
  • Parents having severe, unaddressed mental health problems, or
  • Parents’ incarceration.

Child custody for grandparents

Visitation rights of grandparents vary from one state to another and would usually require family court hearings. In some states, for instance, although the visitation rights of a grandparent is considered healthy for the child, a grandparent could petition the court for custody only if the parents of the child are separated or divorced, or are going through the process of separation or divorce, or in the event that there’s a significant breakdown within the family unit.

As with parental child custody and visitation, the rights to custody or visitation of non-parents would be decided in family court in accordance with what the judge deems is in the child’s best interests. For the best possible outcome for your case, seek help from an experienced child custody attorney in your state.