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Third Party Custody

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 651-379-3024 or contact us online to arrange an appointment. There is no charge for case consultations, and flexible scheduling is available.

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Client testimonials
  • "Tori had a thorough understanding of my situation and made excellent recommendations to resolve my concerns. She was persistent on communication and handled everything in a very timely manner. I would definitely hire her again in the future if needed." - M.K.

  • "With Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., it is like having a family physician. They are all knowledgeable, thorough, comforting, and the only call I need to make for all my legal needs for many years to come. No matter what the matter, I totally trust their advice and commitment to me and my family." - J.N.

  • "Mary from APH Law helped me thru a difficult divorce. She and the entire staff was there for me every step of the way helping me on what to do next. They listened to what I wanted and helped me achieve what matter the most to me in the divorce settlement." - Dana C.

  • "I chose APH after my initial consultation with Mary. I felt my best interest would be represented. The entire process went excellent, the attorneys and staff communicated effectively and efficiently with me throughout the process as they needed to. Being new to the legal process and verbiage, they walked me and talked me through the next steps and the jargon, I felt completely comfortable and represented. I hope I never have to use legal services again but if I do I will call Mary at APH Law and know that I will be taken care of." - Jeff M.

  • "Divorce is a time of emotion and stress. Mary Pfeifer , My lawyer was professional and compassionate. She was very informative through the process. Her insight helped me in my decisions. She worked hard to obtain a settlement which was fair to both parties. Though, I hope I won't need her help again. It is reassuring to know a good person that is willing to help." - Rod S.

  • "I first came to Ms. Jacquelyn Lutz of Appelhof, Pfeifer and Hart in October of 2016. It was definitely the worst time in my life and she compassionately spoke with me about my options. Ms. Lutz thoroughly explained the laws, statutes, process and what to expect going forward. What was supposed to be one case, turned into three intricate cases that took a huge toll on me and my family. Ms. Lutz represented me in court on all three cases with a vast knowledge of the laws and how to proceed accordingly. During all three cases she kept me informed, calm, gave me resources to utilize, and (most important) gave me a realistic view of what may come next. Ms. Lutz knew each case required a great deal of knowledge and creative thinking on how to legally proceed forward with each case. My family and friends are forever grateful for the amazing representation by Ms. Lutz. I highly recommend Ms. Lutz for anyone needing or considering superb representation for any kind of family law. " - M.H.


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