You are not the parent of the children you take an active role in helping to raise, but you love them very much. Recent circumstances have made it necessary to question who the children’s primary custodial guardian should be. If you are not the biological parent, do you have a right to petition the court for custody? When this is a concern, it helps to understand how family law courts in New York address the matter.

There are many situations in which you or another nonparent might seek custody of a child, including the following:

  • The biological parents may have become incapacitated or deemed unsuitable to parent the children, and the grandparents wish to raise the children.
  • The parents wanted their children’s aunt and uncle to have custody if they passed away before the children became adults, but the parents died without a will. Now, the aunt and uncle are facing opposition from other relatives regarding who should take care of the children.
  • A couple is getting a divorce, and the stepfather knows that the children’s biological mother is abusive and will pose a danger to her children if she gets custody of them.

As a nonparent of the children you helped raise, you can rest assured that New York law allows you to seek custody of them. According to the New York State Unified Court System, nonparents, even those who are not biologically related to a child, can seek custody if they serve an important role in the child’s life. During a custody petition, the court system will consider what is in the best interests of the child, as well as any unusual or extraordinary circumstances that may necessitate a nonparent gaining custody.

Child custody is a sensitive and often complex matter, and usually requires legal counsel to ensure your interests are best represented.