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No Biological Relation? How to Get Custody of a Child Who is Not Your Own

Maybe you’re a stepmom looking to take over for an MIA parent. Maybe you’re an uncle with concerns about your nephew’s current living conditions. Perhaps you’re a foster parent. Whatever your reasons for thinking about non-parent custody, it’s important to realize that it won’t be a walk in the park. You’ll need to follow quite a few guidelines to assume guardianship of a child, so consider this a primer on the basics.

Understand the General Criteria

While every state will have its own rules and regulations about non-parent custody, there are generally two paths that you can follow. The first involves “consent guardianship” where the child’s biological parents agree to give you custody, and the second is a “non-parent custody petition” where you prove that the child’s parents are dead, missing or just unfit to raise them.

Research Your State’s Laws

Custody issues are handled on a local level instead of a federal one, so there are no big, all-encompassing rules about what’s required and what’s not. You’ll need to research non-parent custody regulations in your specific state to figure out the exact criteria for taking on a child. For example, some states won’t authorize non-parent custody if the child’s parents are still married, and other states won’t let grandparents file for custody unless the child has been formally put up for adoption.

Establish Legal Standing

“Legal standing” refers to your right to claim custody of the child. Blood relation is the easiest way to do this, especially if you’re a close relative like an aunt or uncle, but step-parents also hold sway if the child has been living with them for an extended period of time. The same goes for foster parents looking to make their family situation a little more permanent. If you have no legal or familial ties to the child at all, legal standing will be harder to prove.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you’re ready to start proceedings on non-parent custody, a family law attorney is your best bet. Depending on their specialization, they can help you with everything from adopting a foster child to taking guardianship of a younger cousin. They’ll also be able to navigate any legal hurdles that you face along the way, including missing parents, outdated paperwork and difficult judges.

If you can provide a child with a loving home, it doesn’t matter if you’re their biological parent or not. It’s in their best interest to stay with you. Use these guidelines for filing a non-parent custody petition and making your family grow.

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Author Info: Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake. You can find her on Twitter.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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