Non Divorce Custody
Child custody is a major issue when two adults plan for a divorce. Matters of property division, pet custody etc crop in. But when two people are not married and pursue for child custody, it is often termed as non divorce custody. Apart from non divorce custody cases where unmarried parents seek for child custody, a non divorce custody issue may also arise if grandparents are interested in custody of the child. In some rare cases, a closely attached relative may be interested in the custody of the child and may file for custody.
Let us ponder on each case separately:
- Unwed parents and child custody
Non-divorce custody cases (where the parents are unmarried) are simpler to settle in the eyes of the law. In most of the states, it is the mother to whom the child custody gets awarded to. It is also called as unwed mother child custody and the unwed father may win some visitation and related custody rights. Courts generally ask the partners to discuss and arrive at a custody decision on their own. In cases of differing opinions, the courts award custody of the child to the unwed mother.
However, the unwed father may get the non divorce custody or unwed father custody in special cases. If he can present his case well enough that the mother is incapable of taking care of the child owing to alcohol, drug abuse or child neglect, the courts might award the custody of the child to him. In such cases the courts try to find out who is the primary caretaker of the child. Meaning the parent who takes care of the preparation of meals, who bathes the child, takes care of his/her dental hygiene and health issues, takes care of the schooling of the child etc are looked upon to decide who is called the primary caretaker. Courts prefer the primary caretaker of the child to get the custody, as it is obvious that is the best interests of the child which are important.
In the case of unwed parents, there is no issue of property distribution at all and the entire ruling is for the custody of the child.
- Grandparents and child custody
Then there are certain cases where the grandparents fight for non divorce custody of the child owing to reasons ranging from the mother or the father being unfit for raising the child etc. The court looks over the matter of custody and visitation of the grandparents only if it is in the best interests of the child. What is the need for the grandparents to get the custody of the child? Are the parents incapable, dead or unfit due to substance abuse etc? Courts then try to see if the grandparent-child relationship is strong enough and how comfortable is the child in the home environment of the grandparents. They also try to gauge the potential of the grandparents in providing affection and warmth for the ultimate nurturing of the child. Some grandparents may be awarded visitation rights to the child (instead of grandparentsí child custody) which is more often the case.
- Non-parent child custody
In very rare cases, non-parents may be interested to get the non divorce custody of the child. They may include people such as grandparents, uncles, aunts of the child with whom the child had spent considerable time with the child. As a result they feel bonded with the child and are interested in getting its custody. The courts still give high priority to the best interests of the child.
If there is a dispute between the parent and non-parent over custody, it is found that the parent actually wins the custody in most of the cases. It may look disconcerting to many, and the courts are struggling to come out of the notion that only blood related parents can take good care of the child in the long run. This practice is being criticized quite often that simply because the parent is mentally and physically fit to take care of the child and is now interested to have the child back in his/her life, wins the custody, when all the while the child was being raised lovingly by the non-parent. Hence, such non divorce custody issues (which are very rare) are discussed with much debate in the courts.
Child custody involving unwed parents, grandparents or a third party involve much debate and discussion.
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