Child custody and visitation disputes are not just reserved for divorced couples, but can involve unmarried couples, grandparents, and even other relatives as well. In each of these cases, a familiar bond to a child may provide the necessary grounds upon which a claim for either custody or visitation can be waged.

When it comes to unmarried parents, most state laws are written to automatically award sole physical custody of the child to the mother. Unless the father takes proactive measures to confirm his paternity of the child, he may have very little ability to request custody of his child. Even then, courts make it hard for a father to retain sole physical custody of the child over the mother.

As for how the child custody process works in the case of unmarried couples, it mimics that of married ones. The goal is for the two parties to work together to draft a shared parenting agreement and have it approved by the judge.

Aside from the child’s actual parents, there are also instances in which another relative may wish to gain custody or visitation. In most states, the individual that wishes to gain access to the child must first file a non-parental or third-party custody petition within the jurisdiction where the child is believed to live.

In filling out this petition, that individual will have to clearly establish how they’re related to the child and share what they know about the whereabouts of the child’s own parents. They’ll also need to clearly justify the reasons that they believe the child would benefit from having them in its life.

While the petition described above covers individuals such as aunts, uncles, siblings and family friends, grandparents are not seen as belonging to that same third-party category. Instead, a grandparent’s right to see their grandchildren is protected each of the 50 states’ laws. These establish a clear path through which a child’s grandparents can seek to gain visitation with their grandchildren.

If you fit into one of aforementioned, non-traditional categories and you’re seeking either guardianship or visitation with a minor child, then a Catonsville, Maryland, child custody attorney attorney can guide you in your legal matter.

Source: FindLaw, “Custody and Visitation in Non-Divorce Cases,” accessed June 30, 2017