In the context of child custody in Missouri, third-party custody refers to an individual who is not a parent who is seeking custody rights. Often this individual has a biological or marital relationship to the child, such as a grandparent. However, third-party custody does not require a biological or marital relationship with the child.
A third-party may intervene in a custody matter or file an independent proceeding for third-party custody. The third-party must establish that either (1) each parent is “unfit, unsuitable, or unable to be a custodian,” or (2) the welfare of the child requires third-party custody from a person “deemed by the court to be suitable and able to provide an adequate and stable environment for the child.” If a third-party meets this standard, the court may consider third-party custody. In reaching its decision, the court must consider the best interests of the child.
Third-party custody most commonly occurs when a grandparent needs to step in to raise a child because one or both of the natural parents cannot do so; however, it is important to distinguish between third-party custody and grandparent visitation.
If you have additional questions about third-party custody, contact the family law attorneys at the Paul Law Firm. Consultations are always free!