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What is third-party custody?

42256169_S.jpgLike most grandparents in Jackson County, your deep regard for your grandchildren is only matched by the love you feel for your own kids. You of course want to see your own children succeed as parents, yet not at the expense of your grandkids' well-being. If the issue of your grandchildren's custody does come up, you may feel as though you owe it to them to ask the court to consider giving you custodial rights. 

Section 452.375(5) of Missouri's Domestic Relations Code shows that the state considers five distinct types of custody: 

  • Joint physical and joint legal custody to both parents
  • Joint physical custody with sole legal custody awarded to one parent
  • Joint legal custody with sole physical custody awarded to one parent
  • Sole custody awarded to one parent 
  • Third-party custody 

What is third-party custody? It is when temporary or permanent custody (or visitation) is awarded to one the court deems able to provide a safe and stable environment for a child. As a grandparent, that might certainly be you. Other parties often awarded third-party custody include stepparents, relatives or adults with whom your grandchildren may have been living for a long time. 

The court typically only considers third party custody when your child (your grandkids' parent) has died or he or (and his or her partner) are deemed to be unfit parents and/or it is shown to be in the best interest of your grandchildren. As difficult as it may be for you, if you believe it to be necessary, you may need to challenge your child's parental fitness (as well as that of your grandkids' other parent) if you believe it to be best for them. If you do, burden falls to you to prove their shortcomings to the court. 

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