Book an appointment using SetMore

Can a Non-Family Member Get Custody of a Child?

We've all heard the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." But what happens when your role in the village morphs from the fun-loving, always-has-candy-in-their-pocket friend to something more? What happens when you're asked - or find yourself wanting - to step into the shoes of a parent for a friend's child? That, my dear reader, is where the plot thickens.

Buckle up, because we're about to embark on a wild ride down the complex, winding road of "how to get custody of a friend's child." Imagine it as an unexpected adventure, akin to finding a secret door in your home leading to Narnia, but instead of talking animals, you're navigating a maze of legal procedures. Spoiler alert: it's not as scary as it sounds.

Now, you might be wondering, "Can I really take custody of my friend's child?" The short answer is, yes, you can. But as with most things in life, the devil is in the details. Don't worry, though; we've got you covered. We're here to guide you through this journey, breaking down everything from understanding legal procedures, the financial side of custody battles, to the emotional impact on the child, and even your rights as a third-party custodian.

So, grab a cup of coffee, settle into your favorite armchair, and let's unravel this together. You're about to discover that while the path to third-party custody may be filled with challenges, it's also sprinkled with the potential for immense love and rewarding experiences. Keep reading; you'll be well-equipped to handle this surprising chapter of your life confidently and clearly.

If you are a person other than a biological parent or adoptive parent who has cared for a child for some time, you may be wondering what legal rights you have to that child. These people can be grandparents, aunts, uncles, or even trustworthy family friends.

There is a misbelief that you may not obtain custody of a child, but this is not true in certain circumstances. Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have experienced attorneys that can explain your chances of obtaining custody as a third party.

Third-Party Custody

Mentioned above is what is known as "Third-Party Custody," where a non-biological parent is awarded custody of a child. What custody means is that the custodial parent will now have the right to make life decisions for the child directly.

There are many instances where a third-party custodian may be ordered, including when the child's biological parents do not wish to retain custody themselves, when they cannot properly care for the child, or have been presumed unfit to care for the child.

However, most third-party custody cases are extensively considered in emergencies, like when both parents have died, are incapacitated, or are incarcerated. A parent is incapacitated or unfit to care for a child when they cannot normally function due to a mental illness, abuse of controlled substances, or other hindering conditions versus being incarcerated where the parents are both imprisoned.

What is "Standing?" and Do I Have It?

To begin legal action for custody, a person much have what is referred to as "Legal Standing." In short, this means that the third party seeking to obtain possession of a child must show that they have a valued interest or connection in the custody matter.

If you are a distant relative of the child with little connection or involvement in the child's life, you will likely not have "standing" to seek custody. However, if you have had significant involvement with a child-like primary custodian for several years, you will be standing.

In Texas specifically, you would need to have cared for, controlled, and possessed the child for at least six months to have standing. This can mean having the child live with you, supporting the child's physical or psychological needs, or showing guidance, governance, and direction similar.

Parental Preference Rule

In Texas, public policy supports the notion of family wholeness, and we pride ourselves on putting our family values first. In summary, courts will prefer to have a child in the custody of a biological parent over a third party because they believe it is in the "best interest" for a child to grow up with their birth parents.

If you are looking to take custody of a child over the child's biological parents ultimately, you will need to prove that ordering a third-party control would be in the child's best interest. This can be confirmed if there is evidence of any parents' abuse, neglect, or drug usage. In Texas, we use the standard of the "Best Interest of the Child" before making decisions regarding custody or support.

Filing for Custody

To begin, regardless of the situation, you will need legal intervention if you seek custody of a child as a third party. This means to have a legally recognized relationship between you and the child; you must go through the Texas family law courts.

Without such, a person may be taking care of a child for a period only to have the biological parents who have the unique right to them come in and request their return.

Termination of Parental Rights/ Adoption

Suppose you wish to be awarded custody of a child as a third party without having the biological parents have any rights to the child. In that case, you will first need to terminate the birth parents' rights. This is what is known as a termination of parental rights.

Termination of parental rights can be either voluntary or involuntary. In a voluntary termination, both or one of the parents will agree to give up their rights to the child. In contrast, the parents will have to have their rights terminated via a court order in an involuntary termination. In an automatic stop, the biological parent's custody would not be in the child's best interest. It must be proven by clear and convincing evidence rather than a preponderance of the evidence, which is a higher standard of proof. This is because losing your child is the equivalent of getting the death penalty.

Now that the biological parent's rights have been terminated, the child is now eligible for adoption. To be clear, both parents do not have to have their rights relinquished, but at least one parent's rights must be terminated before a child can be adopted. Even after this has been done, the child will have to live with the parent for at least six months before filing for adoption. The adoptive parents will also need to have a criminal history report, and a home study before a court approves the adoption.

Furthermore, your adoption proceeding may even require the child to have their legal representation by an Attorney Ad Litem, an attorney specifically for the child and representing their best interests. This Ad Litem will let the court know if they believe the adoption is in the child's best interest.

Termination and adoption proceedings, in a sense, go hand in hand; you cannot adopt a child whose biological parent has a superior right to them.

Grandparent's Rights

In Texas, there is a thing known as grandparent's rights. When you think about it, grandparents are vital to a child's upbringing, and many have involved roles in raising a child. The bond between a grandparent and a grandchild is so strong. Unfortunately, grandparents do not have rights over their grandchildren unless they have been court-ordered.

However, you may have the standing to bring your lawsuit for things like visitation, custody, or both. You would have to prove that you are the biological grandparent, one parent still has parental rights, and your grandchild will suffer physical or emotional harm without your presence in their life.

Depending on the circumstances, you may have more requirements, but we have dedicated attorneys here to help you figure out if more is required of you.


Suppose you are a grandparent to a child subject to an ongoing child custody lawsuit in Texas. In that case, you can file an intervention, or intervene, in the existing lawsuit if you are seeking custody of your grandchild. This means that as a grandparent, you have an interest in the outcome of the child custody case.

As mentioned before, Texas prefers the children to remain with their biological parents, so you will have to prove more than just your want of custody. For example, you can show that your grandchild has been abused or neglected.

This will require a petition to be appointed as a conservator or guardian. You will have to show again that you are a biological grandparent, one parent still retains parental rights, and absences of access will physically or emotionally impair the child.

Possessory Conservatorship vs. Managing Conservatorship

You may be awarded two types of conservatorship regarding your grandchild: possessory or managing conservatorship. The main difference between the two is that you will not have any rights or duties to make life decisions for your grandchild in possessory conservatorship. However, you will have visitation rights.

In a managing conservatorship, you will now have the rights and duties to make life decisions regarding your grandchild. Your grandchild will also live with you, and you may also be entitled to child support from the parents. The requirements for being awarded a managing conservatorship of your grandchild include one more additional element than what has been aforementioned, and this includes proving that you have cared for your grandchild in your own home for six months or more and that this arrangement was disrupted 90 days before filing this petition for intervention. You may also still file if your grandchild and parent have lived with you for six months and have been within the previous 90 days. Lastly, it must be decided by the judge that awarding conservatorship is in the best interest of the child.

Possessory Conservatorship

Managing Conservatorship

Rights and Duties

Does not have rights or duties to make life decisions for the child.

Has rights and duties to make life decisions for the child.

Living Arrangements

The child does not live with the conservator.

The child lives with the conservator.

Visitation Rights

Has visitation rights.

Has visitation rights.

Child Support

Not entitled to child support from parents.

May be entitled to child support from parents.


Prove biological grandparent status and that absence of access will physically or emotionally impair the child.

All of the above, plus prove that the grandchild lived in the grandparent's home for six months or more, and this arrangement was disrupted 90 days before filing the petition.

How to Get Custody of a Friend's Child

The question of "how to get custody of a friend's child" is one that's more complex than it seems. This situation calls for a deep understanding of legal procedures and an even deeper pocket for the associated costs.

The Legal Maze: Understanding the Procedures

Navigating through the legal system is like running a marathon. There's paperwork to be filled out, processes to kickstart, and legal terminologies to decode. Understanding these procedures is the first step to successfully obtaining custody.

Counting the Costs: The Financial Side of Legal Action

Like most things in life, seeking custody comes with a price tag. Attorney fees, court costs, and the potential financial implications of court-ordered evaluations or requirements can add up quickly. It's crucial to assess your financial capability before embarking on this journey.

Viewing Through Their Eyes: The Child's Perspective

In a world where adults make the decisions, it's easy to overlook the child's viewpoint. Yet, how the child feels and what they want are significant factors that courts consider in custody cases. Keeping their best interests at heart is paramount.

The Emotional Tide: Understanding the Psychological Impact

The process of seeking custody can have a profound psychological impact on the child. This is especially true for older children who comprehend what's happening. As a third-party seeking custody, it's essential to be mindful of this impact and take steps to mitigate it.

The Unseen Heroes: The Role of Child Services

Child services or social workers often play an essential role in custody cases. They provide valuable insights about the child's situation and can offer invaluable assistance.

Claiming the Mantle: Rights of the Third-Party Custodian

As a third-party custodian, it's crucial to understand your rights in relation to the child, the biological parents, and the state. These rights can dictate the extent of your responsibilities and control over the child's life.

Legal Precedents: The Influence of Case Law

Case laws and precedents can significantly impact the outcome of a third-party custody case. Understanding these can provide insights into how the court may rule in your situation.

Navigating Relationships: The Impact on Parent-Child Relationship

The legal custody battle can strain the relationship between the child and the biological parents. It's important to consider how this might affect the child and take steps to preserve healthy relationships.

Exploring Alternatives: The Foster Care System

In some cases, the child may be placed in the foster care system during the proceedings. Understanding how this system interacts with third-party custody cases is crucial.

Beyond Borders: Third-Party Custody in Other States/Countries

While this article focuses mainly on the process within the United States, it's important to note that third-party custody laws and procedures can vary significantly in other states or countries.

The Peaceful Path: The Role of Mediation

Mediation or alternative dispute resolution methods can offer a less aggressive way to resolve custody disputes. These methods prioritize agreement and compromise over legal battles.

Parental Ties: Legal Rights of Biological Parents

Even in third-party custody cases, the biological parents retain certain legal rights. Understanding these rights can help you navigate the complex terrain of custody battles.

Taking on the responsibility of a friend's child is a noble act, but it's a journey filled with legal, financial, and emotional challenges. However, with a clear understanding of the process, a commitment to the child's best interests, and the help of legal professionals, it's a journey that can lead to a rewarding new chapter for both you and the child.

The Final Chapter: Embracing the Unexpected Journey of Third-Party Custody

Well, dear reader, we've journeyed together through the intricate labyrinth of legal procedures, emotional roller coasters, and financial considerations, all tied up with the big question of "how to get custody of a friend's child." You've hung in there like a champ, and we've emerged on the other side, hopefully, a little wiser and better prepared.

Remember when we started this odyssey, and we asked if you could really take custody of your friend's child? And the answer was a simple "yes"? We've now uncovered that this "yes" comes with many layers, like the world's most complex yet intriguing onion.

As we part ways on this journey, remember that every custody story is as unique as a thumbprint - there's no one-size-fits-all solution. But with a solid understanding of the process, a heaping dose of patience, and a heart full of determination, you're now well-equipped to navigate this path.

So, as you step back into your village, ready to take on a bigger role in a child's life, remember that while this journey may have started with unexpected twists and turns, it could lead to a heartwarming finale. After all, as they say, love isn't just about being there for the good times, but stepping up when life gets complicated.

And who knows? One day, you may look back and marvel at how this unexpected adventure led you to the most rewarding chapter of your life. You've got this! And remember, even when it seems tough, the village is right there with you, every step of the way.

Book an appointment with Law Office of Bryan Fagan using SetMore


undefinedIf you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: "Child Custody E-Book."

Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. 12 Texas Custody & Conservatorship Battle Tips
  2. Child Custody Basics in Texas
  3. Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have Joint Custody of My Child in Texas?
  4. Are Dads at a Disadvantage when trying to win 50/50 custody in a Texas Divorce?
  5. Sole Managing Conservator in a Child Custody Case in Texas?
  6. Help!! My Ex-Spouse Kidnapped my Child
  7. How Much Will My Texas Child Custody Case Cost?
  8. When Can a Minor Child Weigh in on Custody Decisions in Texas?
  9. Child Custody Geographic Restrictions in Texas
  10. Are Dads at a Disadvantage when trying to win 50/50 custody in a Texas Divorce?
  11. When Can a Minor Child Weigh in on Custody Decisions in Texas?

FAQ: Guardianship, Custody, and Emergency Custody in Texas

Fill Out To Watch Now!

  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.