What are the Odds on Overturning a Non-Parental Custody Order?

Wonder How Secure Your New Non-Parental Custody Order Really Is?  Can You Overturn or Overrule a Non-Parental Custody Order?

Non-Parental Custody Cases, or third party custody, is when a person other than the biological parent (or adopted parent) has custody of a child.  There are three different ways a third party custody decision could be overturned or reversed.  The decision could be reversed by the judge who issued the decision provided that a request is made within a certain time period after the judge wrote the order. 

The judge could reverse that decision through a motion to vacate, motion for reconsideration, or on its own motion.  Second, the biological parent can bring an appeal within 30 days after the decision by the judge.  This is known as the appellate route.  It often takes many years to overturn any decision.  Finally, the biological parent could bring a petition to modify based on a substantial change in circumstances.  This is the most fruitful root.

However, if a decision was obtained by default, i.e., the parent never showed up, the odds for overturning a non-parental custody order improve dramatically provided the parent acts quickly.   Overturning default judgments get more difficult and problematic over time.  The best success is achieved by those that file to get the case overturned immediately after receiving the order.

Aren’t Non-Parental Custody Decrees Permanent, How Can a Biological Parent Later Bring One to Court?

No.  Non-parental custody decrees are permanent in so much as they can be in a legal sense.   Please note that non-parental custody decrees are not adoptions. I often advise my clients to think of non-parental custody orders as adoption lite.  In adoptions, a biological parent legally terminates his or her legal rights to the child. 

Once this happens, in the eyes of the law, the biological parent is no different than a stranger on the street as it relates to their own child.  Unfortunately, there are many biological parents who are willing to extinguish their parental rights just so they don’t have to pay child support.

Non-parental custody cases can be “revised” through the modification process of parenting plans.  Since a biological parent retains some rights to the child, the biological parent remains a “player” with respect to your child. 

As a result, and like any parenting plan, the biological parent can bring a modification action to modify the current parenting plan up to and including full termination of your rights to the child, although based on aggregate statistics from King county, this is extremely unlikely.

If I Can Remove the Parent, Shouldn’t I Pursue Adoption Instead?

If you can pursue it sure, but if you are in a fight for your granddaughter or niece, more likely than not you cannot pursue adoption.   Since third party parents can’t pursue adoption in these situations, third party custody remains the only viable option.  

If you are weighing whether pursuing a non-parental custody order is a better choice than pursuing adoption or vice-versa, it makes sense to speak with an attorney and arrange a consultation with one of our experienced third party custody lawyers at The Seattle Family Law Group.  

Call 206-633-2015 to schedule a consultation today.