In today’s video I want to talk to those grandparents, parents and third parties who have custody of a child. So in the case of grandparents and third parties, the child is not going to be their own child but rather a grandchild or maybe a stepson or stepdaughter and they’ve been awarded custody by the court.
I want to talk to these people about their situation especially if the other parent has been absent from that child’s life for a long period of time. I’ve had a few of these cases surprisingly in the last year come up where either a grandparent, parent or third party has custody and the other parent hasn’t been around. Then suddenly the other parent appears out of nowhere after many years demanding either custody or parenting time rights.
What has happened in these cases is that it has caused complete upheaval in the lives of these children. They haven’t known the parent or haven’t had exposure or parenting time with the parent. This parent has been a virtual stranger to the child so having the parent kind of waltz in and try to pick up maybe where they left off 10 years ago is detrimental to the child and it’s resulted in custody battles in court sadly.
Unfortunately there is a presumption of the law that parents’ kind of have a priority. If the child not being in the care and custody of the parent would not be detrimental to the child, the law kind of favors the parent having custody of that child. So for those third parties having custody of a child when the other parent has been absent, you may have to look at some different alternatives if you are concerned that the other parent may show up out of nowhere.
One of the alternatives that I wish my clients had looked at and actually followed through with was termination of parental rights. It depends on the laws in your jurisdiction and there are different requirements before a parent’s rights can be altogether terminated, meaning not having rights to the child whatsoever. (Although in many cases they do still have to pay child support).
When you terminate a parent’s rights they are stopped from deciding many years down the road, they want to be involved in their kid’s life and coming back and causing upheaval. Termination of Parental Rights cases are not always that easy because you are asking the court to sever one of the most fundamental rights that a parent has. In many situations courts will appoint a free attorney or a low cost attorney to the parent, especially if the parent does not want their rights terminated. You have to have a hearing and a there’s a lot of hoops that have to be jumped through.
That can cause upheaval in and of itself but it may be something worth doing if you don’t want years and time to pass and the child to be on stable and solid ground and all of a sudden, the kid is in high school and the parent wants to come in and take over custody. The judges and courts in these cases are limited to what they can do if that would be in the best interest of the child.