While keeping a child’s relationship with their parents through custody and visitation arrangements is usually essential for their growth and development, it may not be the best choice for other cases. Sometimes, awarding custody to a child’s parents does not serve their best interests. In many cases, courts choose de facto custodians.
De facto custodians are nonparents who gain legal rights to provide care and love for a child when their biological parents cannot do so themselves. In Kentucky, situations that allow a nonparent to step in as a child’s custodian include the following:
When the biological parent is unfit
If evidence shows that a parent is unfit to care and harmful to their child’s physical, mental and emotional well-being or is otherwise unqualified to claim custody, the court can award custody to a nonparent. This also applies when a child’s parent signs an agreement to surrender custody. Assuredly, the court will still confirm the nonparent’s suitability before they decide.
When the nonparent has lived with the child
The court can name an individual as a de facto custodian if they can show clear and convincing proof that they have been the child’s primary caregiver and financial supporter under either of the following circumstances:
- The child is under three years old and has lived with them for at least six months or
- The child is over three years old and has lived with them for at least a year.
The individual must have actual possession of the child within the last two years before the petition and has been standing as their caregiver throughout the period stated above.
For the child’s well-being
Both situations mentioned above can be difficult to prove as someone who is not the child’s parent. Nonetheless, the courts will always decide according to what is best for the child’s best interests, and if that means choosing a de facto custodian, then they will do so.