Third-Party Custody

Factors Considered in a Third-Party Child Custody Determination

Grandma and Granddaughter Spending Quality Time
FatCamera/Getty Images

Third-party custody is often defined as custody of a child involving a nonparent. Each state considers a number of factors prior to determining child custody to a third party. Here is some information for parents, grandparents, or any other person who is considering a custodial arrangement that involves a nonparent.

Third Party Standing

Many states require a third party to have standing to petition for custody of a child, meaning courts require a nonparent to have an established relationship with a child, prior to petitioning for custody.

States will find the following nonparents to have standing in a custody suit:

  • A de facto custodian: a person with whom the child has resided for an extended period of time prior to the custody petition with a lack a participation from the child's parents

Examples of Appropriate Third Party Custodians

  • Immediate family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, or older siblings
  • In certain circumstances, a court will find a godparent, family friend, or neighbor to have standing

A nonparent may petition a court for custody of a child under certain limited circumstances including if:

  • The child will be in danger or may suffer harm in the care of a parent
  • The child's parent has abandoned or neglected the child for an extended period of time
  • Granting custody to a third party is in the best interests of the child
  • Other extraordinary circumstances exist as deemed relevant by the court

Third Party Custody Factors

Prior to awarding custody to a third party, a court will consider the following factors:

  • Best interests of the child
  • Wishes of the child
  • Wishes of the parent(s)
  • Child's relationship with the third party
  • Child's adjustment to school, home, and community
  • Length of time the child has lived in a stable, loving home
  • Nonparent's ability to provide for the child, financially and emotionally

For more information about third-party custody, refer to your state's statute on child custody or speak with a qualified attorney in your home state.