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When the person seeking child custody is not the child’s parent

On Behalf of | Nov 12, 2020 | Child Custody

Sometimes a child’s parents in Tucson are not fit to raise the child in a healthy and supportive manner, putting the child’s best interests at stake. When this happens, a third party who is not the child’s parent may wish to seek custody of the child. However, under Arizona law this can only happen in very limited circumstances.

When can a third party seek custody?

The third-party filing for custody must prove the following. First, they must be standing in loco parentis to the child, meaning that the child treats them as a parent, and they have a meaningful parental relationship with the child for a substantial time period.

Second, they must show that awarding child custody to either legal parent would be significantly detrimental to the child.

Third, a child custody order must not have been entered or approved within one year of the third party filing for custody unless the child’s present environment seriously endangers the child’s health.

Finally, one of the following must be true. Either one of the child’s legal parents must have passed away, or the child’s legal parents are not married to one another or divorce or legal separation proceedings are pending at the time the third party files for custody.

Who bears the burden of proof in third party child custody cases?

Under Arizona law, it is presumed that legal decision-making awards should go to one of both legal parents, as it is in the child’s best interests to be reared by a legal parent. A third party can rebut this presumption if they can prove by clear and convincing evidence that giving a legal parent decision-making rights would be inconsistent with the best interests of the child.

Assistance is available to third parties seeking custody

If a third party wants to seek child custody, there are several legal hurdles to overcome. This post does not offer legal advice and cannot promise any specific outcome in a person’s third-party child custody case. Tucson area family law attorneys may be a useful source of information to those who want to learn more about third party child custody in Arizona.