To pursue custody rights as a third-party, you must demonstrate to the court that the child’s legal parents are either unfit or that extraordinary circumstances are necessitating your petition. A court must be shown that the minor’s best interest is at stake to award custody in situations where this high standard of cause is successfully evidenced.
Individuals who have obtained recognition as de facto parents will not have to prove the legal parents’ unfitness or demonstrate that exceptional circumstances are at play. They have the difficult task of proving to a family court judge that giving them custody is best for the child involved in the case.
Typically, situations that would fall under extraordinary circumstances involve the bond between the third party and the minor, such as the length of time a grandparent has acted as a caretaker until the parents attempted to reintroduce themselves as the primary caregiver. Another factor the court will consider is the level of emotional trauma the child may suffer from separating from the third-party individual and how sincere the legal parents demonstrate when it comes to retaining custody.
Whether you are a de facto parent, a third party (grandparent, family friend, etc.), or a minor child’s legal parent, you may be able to pursue visitation rights if you do not have custody. Typically, this is only permitted when the court finds that the custodian is unfit or unable to visit the child would negatively impact them significantly.
Courts want to balance their decisions based on the child’s best interests and the constitutional rights of all parties involved regarding how they are brought up in their household. This can make the pursuit of visitation rights against a parent’s objections exceedingly complicated and emotionally exhausting for all involved. Before you seek visitation through the court, it is crucial to work with an attorney who has the family law experience necessary to position your case with the court in the best possible light.