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Third Party Custody in Missouri and Kansas

What is third party custody? 

Third party custody frequently refers to an individual or a couple, such as grandparents, who are not a biological or adoptive parent who desire to seek custody rights with a child. Third Party custody rights are a recently evolving area of the law. It has only been in the last decade or so that the courts have pursued some of these rights. For example, there have been long-standing abilities to seek grandparent rights in Kansas and Missouri, however, recent evolution in families have made the reality of more creative legal solutions in the best interests of children. This has included such considerations as a gay or lesbian couple have a child together, but one partner does not adopt the biologic child born of the other partner or even situations where a father who is not a biological or adoptive parent has raised a child “as his own” for many years or even falsely believed that he was the father of a child (and was misled about the child’s parentage by the mother).

Recent changes and updates in the law are important because they recognize changing family situations and allow the court greater discretion to make orders that protect modern families and serve the best interests of a child. Many children today are being raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles, stepparents and other unique family situations. The law recognizes that although a family might not look like the traditional version of a family that our society recognized in the 1950’s, the modern family is just as valuable and meaningful to the child or children involved and needs to be recognized and honored.

What is the significance of third-party custody?

Another area of significance is that many courts have refused to enter specific visitation orders in guardianship cases. This means that if there are family members that all want to be a part of a child’s life, the court historically has not had a mechanism to make this possible. However, with third party custody options, the court has discretion to enter specific visitation orders for multiple people that allow the child to maintain important and valuable relationships with many family members. Frequently, this outcome serves the best interests of the child involved.

How does third party custody allow unique legal outcomes?

Traditionally, the only way that some extended family members, particularly if they were not grandparents, could secure contact and family time with a child involved was through seeking grandparent visitation rights. Alternatively, if the natural parents were proven unfit, unable or unwilling to be a custodian of the child, the third party could seek guardianship. However, a third-party custody action allows for the court to have more creative options at its disposal to meet the family and child’s needs. 

Why is third party custody or third party visitation child-centered?

Recent updates in the law have honored the important relationships that children have. This is important as it would be devastating to a child who has lived with another adult for many years and has viewed that adult as an important parental figure to suddenly have that person ripped out of the child’s life.  Every circumstance and family is unique and the outcome of a claim for third party custody or third party visitation frequently depends on the specific circumstances of the family or living situation, how the other person or parent was held out to the child (i.e. as a parent or in some other role) and the length of time the child and the other person has enjoyed an important and meaningful relationship.

Seeking rights under third party custody or third-party visitation claims is not automatic. It is important that you quickly pursue these claims. If you have served in an important and meaningful role in a child’s life for many years, but you wait an extended period before pursuing your right to maintain a relationship with a child, a court could decide that you’ve waited too long to pursue those rights and deny you the opportunity to pursue those claims. In  

If you have a claim for Third-Party custody or third-party visitation or you are defending a claim for Third-Party custody or you dispute that a third-party custody request is in the best interests of your child, it is critical that you seek a timely, experienced Kansas or Missouri family law attorney to assist you.  Contact Pingel Family Law today at (816) 208-8130 to schedule your consultation regarding your unique Missouri or Kansas family law issues.


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