Washington County Family Law Attorneys Help Caregivers Win Third Party Custody Rights

Experienced attorneys help caregivers throughout Washington County, Dakota County, Burnsville, Stillwater and Woodbury, MN

Third party custody cases involve placing a child with someone other than the parents — such as a grandparent, stepparent or some other adult who has had a caregiver relationship with the child. Third party custody placement often results when the biological parent is unable or unwilling to act as an effective parent.

Third party custody proceedings can be an alternative to child protection proceedings, since an award of custody to a third party removes the child from the harmful situation from which he or she needed protection. At Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., our attorneys explain your legal options and help you choose the path that is right for you and your family.

Who can seek third party custody in Minnesota?

Under Minnesota law, there are two types of people who can seek third party custody: a "de facto custodian" and an "interested third party." The family law attorneys at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A. have many years of experience in representing Minnesotans who are seeking third party custody of the children they provide care for.

Grandparents' rights are observed under Minnesota Statutes §257C.08 and §518.1752. Grandparents can pursue visitation and open a child custody case for their grandchildren under certain circumstances. We offer solid legal representation for families and individuals in Washington County, Dakota County, Burnsville, Eagan and Woodbury, MN.

What is a “de facto custodian” in Minnesota?

A de facto custodian is someone other than a parent who has been the child’s primary caretaker for an extended period of time. To qualify as a de facto custodian, you must have lived with the child — without a parent present and with a “lack of demonstrated consistent participation by a parent” — for six of the past 24 months if the child is younger than 3, or 12 of the past 24 months if the child is 3 or older.

The law defines the phrase “lack of demonstrated consistent participation by a parent” as a parent’s refusal or failure to fulfill parental responsibilities, including providing the child with food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education. Minnesota courts look at the following factors to determine a parent’s lack of demonstrated consistent participation:

  • Intent of the parent or parents in placing the child with the de facto custodian
  • Amount of involvement the parent had with the child during the parent’s absence
  • Facts and circumstances of the parent’s absence
  • Parent’s refusal to comply with the conditions for retaining custody that were established in any previous court orders
  • Whether the parent was previously prevented from maintaining custody as a result of domestic violence
  • Whether a sibling of the child is already in the de facto custodian’s care

What is an “interested third party” in Minnesota?

Minnesota law defines an “interested third party” as someone who is not a de facto custodian but who can prove that at least one of the following situations exists:

  • The parents have abandoned, neglected or otherwise exhibited disregard for the child’s well-being to the extent that the child will be harmed by living with the parent
  • Placement of the child with the interested third party takes priority over preserving the day-to-day parent-child relationship because of the presence of physical or emotional danger to the child
  • Other extraordinary circumstances

Once this initial hurdle is crossed, the interested third party also must prove that it is in the best interests of the child for the interested third party to be granted custody. Minnesota courts consider these factors when deciding whether an interested third party should be awarded custody:

  • The amount of involvement the interested third party had with the child during the parent’s absence or during the child’s lifetime
  • The amount of involvement, if any, the parent had with the child during the parent’s absence
  • The involvement of other interested third parties
  • The circumstances surrounding the parent’s absence
  • The parent’s refusal to comply with conditions for retaining custody in previous court orders
  • Whether the parent was previously prevented from maintaining or seeking custody as a result of domestic violence
  • Whether a sibling of the child is already in the care of the interested third party
  • Whether the parent designated someone to act as a temporary custodian of the child

Third party custody cases require the courts to balance the interests of the child and the parent. The burden is on the third party custodian to prove that awarding custody to himor her is in the child’s best interests.

Call our Oakdale law firm for help with third party custody matters

Our family law attorneys are prepared to guide you through the third party custody process. Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A. delivers tenacious, attentive legal representation for individuals and families throughout Minnesota, including in Washington County, Dakota County, Burnsville, Eagan and Woodbury, MN. Call us today at 651.760.7524 or contact us online to arrange an appointment. There is no charge for case consultations, and flexible scheduling is available.