In some cases involving extraordinary circumstances, especially those where significant bonding in a familial-custody type relationship with a third party, such as a grandparent or long-term step-parent, has occurred, that third party may be able to ask the court for what has come to be known as “third party custody.”
This does not terminate the parental rights, nor does it move all of the parental decisions to the third party. In fact, in appropriate cases, the third party may end up sharing custody with the natural parent.
It is important to remember that parents have constitutionally protected rights to raise their children. This is not an easy action to bring. To enter an order of third party custody, the court must find the parent unfit, unsuitable, or unable to be a custodian, or the court may find that the welfare of the child requires access to the third party. The person seeking third-party custody must intervene in the legal action between the parents, or bring an independent action against the parents for custody of the child.
Some things the court will consider: extensive contact, living together for significant periods of time, travelling together on vacation and holiday trips, celebrating holidays together, whether both parents are involved or one is absent and the third party has taken the absent parent’s place in the eyes of the child, the impact on the child of the severance of the familial-ties with the third party, whether the third party will ensure the parents have continued access if appropriate, whether the third party can co parent with the parent if appropriate.
Third party custody is different than, and much more powerful than, the usual Grandparent visitation rights. Grandparents have rights to visitation only when the parents are not married to each other or have filed for divorce. In addition, the parents must be denying the grandparent contact for more than 90 days, and the child has to have resided with the grandparent for at least 6 months within the most recent 24 month period. These grandparent visitation rights terminate upon adoption of the child.
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We are available to help you with your family law or estate planning needs in the following Missouri counties: Platte, Clay, Jackson, Buchanan, Andrew, Clinton, DeKalb, Holt, Nodaway and Ray.
We are available to help you with your family law or estate planning needs in the following Kansas counties: Leavenworth, Wyandotte, and Johnson.
Kiske Law Office, LLC
10525 N. Ambassador Dr.
Kansas City, MO 64153
Kiske Law Office, LLC
1911 Jules St.
St. Joseph, MO 64501
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