Our client is the paternal aunt of two young children in Guilford County. She approached our family law team in Greensboro for help in getting full legal and physical child custody of the two children. As a third-party intervenor, she faced many challenges in this third party custody case. Despite these challenges, family attorney Jessica Culver helped her devise a winning strategy.
A History of Unstable Living Conditions
Previously, a judge declared the children’s mother an unfit parent as she has pending felony child abuse charges in criminal court. The father was violating a prior custody order by allowing the mother unlimited and unsupervised access to the minor children. Additionally, the father suffers from substance abuse and addiction, leaving him unable to care for the children. Meanwhile, the aunt is a military veteran with a safe, stable lifestyle and home. She has a loving, supportive relationship with the children, and has cared for them emotionally and financially throughout their young lives.
Establishing Standing as a Third Party
Third-party custody cases can be very challenging because the constitutionally protected rights of parents are paramount. In order to establish standing for a third-party intervenor, there must be a demonstration of behavior by the biological parents showing unfitness to care for the minor children or make decisions in their best interest, which interferes with the parents’ strong constitutional right to care, custody, and control. It’s important to show the third party has a close or parent-like relationship with the minor children and can provide an environment that will be in their best interests.
The first course of action was to demonstrate the unfitness of the biological parents, based on dangerous behavior patterns which were putting the children at risk. Additionally, attorney Jessica Culver highlighted issues of neglect, such as a lack of food in the home for the children to eat. She then demonstrated the dichotomy of the biological parents’ household and the aunt’s household. The biological parents were often fighting, traumatizing the children in a high-conflict environment.
The aunt’s household, on the other hand, is peaceful, clean, and spacious. The proposed intervenor offered love, emotional stability, financial support, and a stocked kitchen. She wants to provide the children with education at a local preschool, counseling, and other opportunities that were not available to them before.
Additionally, our client helped with her own case by being responsible and prepared. She has a genuine love and concern for the children, which was easy for the Judge to see.
Taking the Case to Family Court in Guilford County
Despite all the strong evidence, it was possible the Judge would not allow her to intervene and therefore she would not have any rights to custody of the children. Luckily, attorney Jessica Culver was able to organize and present a strong case to allow her to become a party to the lawsuit and walk out of the courtroom with full custody.
Our client now has full legal and physical child custody of the two young children. She can now legally make medical and educational decisions to help them thrive. Additionally, she can control when other parties are allowed supervised access to them, to be sure that all visits are safe and comfortable for the children. Finally, she has the peace of mind to know her nephews are safe in her household.
Need to File for Third-Party Child Custody?
If you find yourself in a similar situation as our client, it’s important to collect evidence. This includes things such as Facebook postings, text messages, voice recordings, photographs, and sometimes even bank statements to demonstrate concerns about the opposing party or to bolster your own case. Third-party child custody actions can be a challenge, so you’ll need to prepare accordingly.
If you would like to file for third party custody in North Carolina, contact our family law attorneys today. They’ll help you organize and gather evidence to build a strong case. We have offices throughout the NC Piedmont Triad for your convenience. Visit us in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, or High Point.