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Third-party Custody

Third-party Custody, also called Non-parental Custody is a specialized area of law that applies both Federal Law as well as State Law. The Supreme Court of the United States determined that mothers and fathers have the right, above all others, to make decisions regarding their children unless. It is the 'unless' that allows Non-parental Custody. There are two methods used in Washington to gain custody of a child who is not their own. One is a Non-parental Action and the other is by agreement with the parents. That agreement is called a Temporary Parental Consent Agreement.

Non-parental custody actions have very specific rules and procedures that must be followed in order to have the Court place a child with someone who is not their parent. The lawyers in Ann Farnsworth law office are well trained in these rules and procedures.

A third-party custodian could be a relative like a grand-parent, aunt, or sister. Sometimes the third-party custodian is a non-relative with whom the child has been left for an extended period of time. The basic rule is that in order to file for third-party custody, the child has to be living with the person requesting custody and the biological parents are unfit. Sometimes a parent may be fit but placement with that parent may detrimentally affect the child's growth and development. Although the "best interest of the child" is often the standard which the Court applies, in this case, it is not enough to show that the child would have a better environment in the third-party's home.

Once a third-party custody action has been filed, the Court will request that the state Child Protective Service run a complete background on the requesting party. If that background check comes back to the court with no concerns, the court will set a hearing to determine whether or not all the rules and procedure were followed and will then discuss the actual facts of the case. The parents are given notice of the hearings and have an opportunity to object to the placement.

If the Court determines that there is clear and convincing evidence that the placement with the parents would be detrimental to the child,the Court will issue a Non-Parental Custody Decree which gives the Non-Parental Custodial permanent legal custody which allow them to make educational, medical and other major decision about the child. This action does not remove the parents' rights to the child and at any time the parents may request that the Courts review the situation and allow the child to return to the parent's home.

The second way to get Non-parental Custody is through agreement of the parties. If both parents agree that the child should be placed with a third-party, the parties can prepare a Temporary Parental Consent Agreement. This agreement will give the third-party custodian authority to make medical educational decisions affecting the child and to get care and services for the child. This agreement is helpful only as long as all parties keep the agreement and third parties like schools, medical facilities and service providers recognize it.

It is very important to understand that this agreement is not a court order. It does not restrict parents' rights and a parent can terminate it at any time. No matter what the agreement says about the length of time it is effective, or if it is designated "indefinite", the parents can revoke the agreement simply by asking for the children back. If the parties decide that this agreement is what they want to do, Ann Farnsworth Law Offices are able to draft the form and explain its positive attributes as well as its negative attributes.