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Under what circumstances can a non-parent get custody of a child?

Florida family law presumes that a child's parents are best suited to care for the child. The law also presumes that the parents should have parental rights. In some extremely difficult cases, however, a court may require the biological parents to relinquish custody of their child. Each one of these cases is unique, and every parent facing this situation should have experienced legal counsel.

A non-parent can be given custody of a child through a number of legal channels. The least contentious route involves the biological parents' voluntarily giving consent. If the parents voluntarily sign a document terminating their parental rights, then legal custody of the child can be turned over to another family member. This is an extremely difficult decision to make, and every party involved should have a legal advocate throughout the process. 

Sometimes non-parental family members have concerns that a child's well-being is threatened while in the care of the biological parents. The family member may file a third-party petition for concurrent or temporary custody. This petition is filed in the Unified Family Court. If the biological parents don't consent to giving the family member custody, then the family member must meet a high standard of proof in court to show that the parents are somehow not fit to care for the child.

If there have been allegations of neglect, abuse or abandonment, then the case will be investigated by the Florida Department of Children and Families. If a court finds that any of the allegations are substantiated, then the child will be removed from the parents' care and placed in state custody.

Attorney Kelley A. Joseph advocates for children and works to help clients in South Florida navigate complex non-parental custody and dependency cases. To learn more, please visit our Florida Family Law website.

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