Obtaining Child Custody If You Are Not a Biological Parent

Slowly but surely, courts throughout the United States have been increasingly willing to grant child custody rights to people who are not the biological parents of a child. New York’s highest state court recently granted “legal parent” status to a woman whose same-sex partner was the biological parent of the child. The woman will have the same rights as a biological mother or father to seek visitation or custody rights in the event that their relationship ends. The court limited the ruling, however, to situations where there is a formal civil union or same-sex marriage. It refused to extend such rights to instances where a person is acting, for all purposes, as a parent but does not have the formal status of a parent.

A Florida judge recently granted custody of a 3-year-old boy to the child’s grandparents after police arrested the boy’s mother on counterfeiting charges. Police are holding the boy’s father for failing to register as a sex offender. Even given the extreme nature of this case, as both of the boy’s parents were under arrest, it still would have been difficult for his grandparents to obtain custody without the consent of his parents. His mother initially wanted custody granted to two of her friends, who, it turned out, were outlaws themselves. Additionally, the grandparents could not have had custody of the boy until his father agreed from his jail cell to the move.

This case demonstrates how difficult it can be for non-biological parents to obtain custody of a child. If you are seeking custody of a child and want what is best for him or her, a Houston family attorney is available to discuss your options.

Child Custody for Non-Biological Parents

Despite increasing recognition of the rights of non-biological parents, it remains extremely difficult for them to obtain custody of a child, particularly when there is a conflict between them and the biological parents.

Courts recognize a child’s parents as having a fundamental right to care for their children; others simply do not have this right. Other parties, such as grandparents or uncles and aunts, may be able to obtain child custody in the following situations:

  • Cases of abuse or abandonment. If biological parents are abusing the child or neglecting the child due to substance abuse, courts are more willing to hear evidence from non-biological parents as to why they would be better custodians of the child than the child’s biological parents.
  • Parents involved in criminal activity or are in jail. As with cases of abuse or abandonment, when children are in harmful or illegal situations, courts are more likely to take custody away from a child’s biological parents.
  • Agreement of the parents. If biological parents are willing to give custody or extend visitation rights to a non-biological parent, courts will generally allow that.

Whether you are a relative of the child or just someone who cares a great deal for him or her, it is an uphill battle to obtain custody or visitation rights if you are not a biological parent. Contact a Houston divorce lawyer at John K. Grubb & Associates, PC to learn how to best present your case to the judge.