St. Louis Third-Party Custody Lawyer
In most child custody disputes, family courts in Missouri award custody to one or both of a child’s biological parents. In certain situations, however, it may be in the child’s best interests to live with a third party with whom they do not share a direct blood relation, generally based on their biological parents’ incapacity to provide appropriate care for them.
However, these cases are often exceptionally difficult for the third party in question to win without assistance from a seasoned child custody attorney. With a St. Louis third-party custody lawyer by your side, you may be able to more effectively demonstrate that you would be a better fit for a child compared to their biological parents.
When is Custody Granted to a Third Party?
There are very limited circumstances under which someone other than a child’s biological parent may be awarded custody by a St. Louis family court. Typically, these circumstances require the petitioning third party to show that both biological parents are unfit to care for the child and that third-party custody would be uniquely in the child’s best interests, per Missouri Revised Statutes §452.375(5)(a).
Unfitness in this context may entail a prior conviction for a criminal offense of a sexual or abusive nature, addiction to alcohol or drugs, severe mental or physical illness, or a number of other factors. However, the base assumption off of which St. Louis courts operate is that joint custody shared by both biological parents is in a child’s best interests barring proof of extenuating circumstances, so a third party seeking either temporary custody, permanent custody, or visitation rights must be prepared to demonstrate the unfitness of the child’s parents to a degree that satisfies the Court.
Furthermore, the third party – or the St. Louis lawyer representing them – must show that granting them custody or visitation rights would be in the child’s best interests based on their physical, social, and emotional needs, and that they would be able to provide an “adequate and stable environment” for the child. If a third party can sufficiently demonstrate these factors, the Court may consider granting them legal and/or physical custody.
Recent Changes to Legal Precedent for Third-Party Custody
As the Court system’s understanding of family dynamics and how to best serve the interests of children has evolved, so too has its definition of what qualifies a third party to be the best possible caretaker for a child over their biological parents. Recent cases in Missouri have granted custody to parents, siblings, and even unmarried partners of biological parents, and other cases have affirmed that a biological parent need not necessarily be declared unfit for a third party to gain custody.
When a person’s relationship to a child becomes tantamount to a parent/child relationship or they have spent a large amount of time with the child and the court determines it is in the child’s best interest, the court can award custody rights to a third party. An experienced third-party custody lawyer in St. Louis could offer further clarification about how recent rulings and legal precedents could affect a particular petitioner’s case.
How a St. Louis Third-Party Custody Attorney Could Help
Custody disputes are emotionally and legally complex, especially when they involve people who are not the biological parents of the child in question. In cases like this, it is unwise to battle for custody as a third party without compassionate and experienced legal advocacy.
A St. Louis third-party custody lawyer could be the ally you need to beat the odds and obtain custody of the child you care for. Reach out today to set up an initial consultation and start discussing your legal options.