What is Third Party Custody And How Does It Work in Oakland County

A grandfather and his granddaughter looking at the camera and waving. They're both smiling and look happy.

You may not have heard the term ‘third party custody’ before, and that’s okay. Not a lot of people other than family law attorneys and judges have heard of it. Certainly it can sound rather confusing. After all, why would someone outside of your immediate family have custody of your kids? (Isn’t that what ‘third party’ means after all?) Technically yes, the term ‘third party’ means someone other than the two people involved – in this case, that would be the parents. So what’s third party custody all about? Let’s take a look…

Third party custody isn’t as scary as it sounds!

All third party custody means is that someone (usually a family member like a grandparent or an aunt or uncle) is stepping in to help care for the children. However, there are cases where it can also mean that the court has granted a non-parental family member the right to see a child. Why would that be necessary, you wonder? There are several situations where parents may need help caring for their children, and the court may allow another person the opportunity to help those kids.

In cases where a parent isn’t available to provide care:

  • If one of the parents has an issue of substance abuse and the other parent isn’t available to take on full custody. 
  • A parent is concerned about their child’s safety in their own home due to possible domestic abuse, and needs help with child care from their own parents. 
  • A parent is struggling with a debilitating illness, disability, or even a missing person’s case that makes caring for a child impossible.
  • A child’s existing relationship with a family member is jeopardized by a divorce (like a paternal grandparent who would lose access to the child because the mother is being granted sole custody by the court). In that case, the grandparents can sometimes ask the court for partial custody, or visitation rights, to maintain the relationship.

In these cases, a grandparent or other family member sometimes steps in to help with child care. When a third party assumes the role of the caregiver the courts sometimes grant custody to that person so that the arrangement is formalized.

What are the requirements under Michigan law:

Under current Michigan law, grandparents are no longer just granted visitation by the court because it’s in the best interests of the child. Now, in order to get legal visitation rights as a grandparent, you have to meet certain criteria before you can even start asking the court for visitation rights. (Visitation rights are much different than custody.) Even after meeting these criteria, getting grandparent visitation is extremely difficult if the parents disagree with it. These criteria are:

  1. If the grandparent’s child (who is the child’s parent) is dead,
  2. The child’s parents have never been married, they aren’t living in the same household, and paternity has been established to the court’s satisfaction,
  3. Someone has custody of the child who isn’t a family member (like the child is in the foster system)
  4. The child lived with the grandparent for 6 months or more within the last year,
  5. The child’s parents are divorced, separated, or their marriage has been annulled

The Kronzek Firm can help you with third-party custody

Third-party custody is a highly complex area of the law. Our aggressive and experienced family legal team has been fighting for family rights for decades, and has been successful in arranging grandparent visitation with courts in Livingston, Oakland and Macomb Counties. When choosing an attorney to help you with third-party custody, it’s important to know that they’re familiar with current law, and are up-to-date on any legal findings that could impact your case.

So call The Kronzek Firm at 248 479-6200 today and get help with all of your custody concerns from people who know exactly how to handle your unique situation. Our Oakland County office is conveniently located on Northwestern Highway near Middlebelt. We are available some evenings and weekends by appointment.