Washington County Family Law Attorneys Guide Relative Caregivers Through the Custody Minefield

Providing experienced counsel to families and individuals in Washington County, Dakota County, Burnsville, Stillwater and Woodbury, MN

Minnesota law recognizes that parents are sometimes unable or unwilling to care for their child and decide to entrust the care of the child to a relative. Grandparents’ rights are set out in the Minnesota statutes, but other family members’ rights are not directly addressed. Though the law is complicated, there are steps you can take as a relative to become the legal guardian of the child you’ve been caring for. You can even ask the court to order the parents to pay child support. At Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., we find innovative solutions to family law issues.

Who can seek guardianship of a child?

In Minnesota, a guardian is someone who is appointed by the court to make the personal decisions for a protected person (a “ward”). The guardian has the authority to make decisions on behalf of the ward about important issues such as housing, medical care and education. In the case of children, a guardianship case is essentially a third party custody case. These cases are often fueled by allegations of abuse or neglect by one or both of the child’s biological parents.

If you are a family member who has been the primary caregiver of a child, you may fit the definition of a de facto custodian — that is, someone other than a parent who has been the child’s primary caretaker for an extended period of time. If the child hasn’t already been placed with you through a court order, consent decree or voluntary placement agreement, you can file a petition asking the court to name you the legal guardian of the child.

What is considereddeprivation?

Deprivation on the part of a parent or legal custodian can support a claim for guardianship. Deprivation of a child is any action or inaction that harms a child’s physical, mental or emotional health. Acts of deprivation include:

  • Willfully depriving a child of food, clothing, shelter, healthcare or supervision when the parent is able to provide for the child
  • Knowingly permitting the continuing physical or sexual abuse of a child
  • Knowingly endangering the child by:
    • Intentionally or recklessly allowing a child to be placed in a situation likely to harm the child’s physical, mental or emotional health or cause the child’s death
    • Knowingly allowing the child to be present where illegal drugs are being sold, manufactured or possessed
  • Intentionally or recklessly exposing a child younger than 14 to harm or death by allowing the child to have access to a loaded firearm

If you believe the parents of a child who is under your care have subjected the child to any of these situations, consult a knowledgeable family law attorney in Minnesota to discuss your options for gaining custody or guardianship rights.

Call our attorneys if you want custody of the child you take care of

At Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., we find innovative solutions to family law issues. Consult our knowledgeable family law attorneys to discuss your options for gaining custody or guardianship rights in Minnesota. We represent clients throughout Minnesota, including in Washington County, Dakota County, Burnsville, Eagan and Woodbury, MN. Call 651-379-3024 today or contact us online to arrange an appointment. Consultations are free, and flexible scheduling is available.

Contact the Firm


Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.


20856 Holyoke Avenue,
P.O. Box 369,
Lakeville, Minnesota 55044