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During most custody proceedings, Minnesota courts presume that it is in the child’s best interest to maintain strong relationships with both parents — and for custody to be awarded to one or both biological parents. In select cases, however, third-party custody may prove preferable. Read on to learn more about the specific circumstances in which an alternate approach to custody may be approved:

When Third-Party Custody Is Necessary

In Minnesota, caretakers may petition for third-party custody if they have already cared for the child in question but require authority for school enrollment, medical care, and other essential matters. Third-party custody may also be sought by those who believe that ‘traditional’ custody arrangements might place children in physical or emotional jeopardy.

The state of Minnesota developed its current process for awarding third-party custody in 2002. The process may vary based on whether the petitioning party is deemed a ‘de facto’ custodian. The state defines de facto custodians as those who have served as primary caretaker for the 24 months preceding the petition. To obtain legal custody, de facto custodians must demonstrate not only that they’ve handled caretaking duties, but also that the biological parents have been consistently absent from their children’s lives for between six months and one year.

If prospective third-party custodians do not qualify as de facto, they may be awarded custody based on the following factors:

  • The reasonable wishes of the child — only if courts deem him or her old enough and capable of expressing such preferences
  • The intimacy of the relationship between the child and the interested third party
  • How long the child has lived in a stable environment and whether third-party arrangements would ensure continuity
  • The impact of domestic abuse, if present in previous households

If you intend on seeking third-party custody in Minnesota, it is imperative that you work with a trusted family attorney. The law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. can help — get in touch today to learn more.