Third-Party Custody in Howard County

Which third parties have custodial rights?

As long as a child's biological parents are deemed fit to fulfill the responsibilities of providing for their child and are willing to care for the child, they will receive custody. Third parties, however, can be granted custody when those factors are not present.

Third parties who may be granted custody rights are:

  • Grandparents of the child
  • Close relatives of the parents
  • Stepparents
  • Partners of the child's biological parents
  • Adults whom the child has been living with for a lengthy period of time


When considering custody of a child by a third party, the court may review several factors, such as:

  • Child's previous relationship to the person
  • Adult's financial and occupational background
  • Relationship between the person and the child's biological parents
  • Instances of physical and / or psychological abuse

Serving the Best Interests of the Child

Before the court makes a determination of child custody, it will examine various factors that relate to the child's best interests. If custody by a third party is in the best interests of the child, the court will issue an order granting custody.

Other factors that will be assessed include:

  • Wishes of the child
  • Wishes of the parents
  • Child's relationship with the third party
  • Child's adjustment to school, home, and community
  • Length of time the child has lived in a stable and loving home
  • Non-parent's ability to provide for child

"De Facto" Parent Visitation Rights

As third parties, the people seeking rights to a child may receive limited visitation if they are considered "de facto" parents.

To be considered a "de facto" parent, the third party must be able to prove that:

  • The legal parent consented to a relationship between the third party and child
  • The third party lived with the child
  • The third party performed parenting functions for the child
  • A parent-child bond was forged


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