Third Party Custody/Guardianship

Families can be complicated. Sometimes the loving care of children is assumed by a grandparent or other third party. In some cases, a parent struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues leaves a child in the care of a guardian. But what happens when the parents resumes care for the child and severs the relationship between the child and third-party caregiver? What if there are lingering concerns about the ability of the parents to care for that child? 

Oregon law protects the rights of parents, both biological and adoptive.  

In child custody, guardianship or visitation cases, the best interest of the child is always considered the top priority. In most situations, the court presumes that living with the parent(s) is in a child’s best interest. It can be difficult to challenge that presumption. 

Family members or third parties can seek legal custody of children through an Oregon child custody petition. Custody is considered more permanent than guardianship and is harder to change or undo. Typically, a custody or guardianship petition is filed after the child has been cared for by a third-party for at least a year. 

Securing visitation rights can be less complicated. Oregon law defines an ongoing personal relationship as one that includes “interaction, companionship, interplay and mutuality” and has been in existence for at least a year.  Under this law, an experienced family law attorney can help build a case that demonstrates an ongoing personal relationship exists and secure visitation rights for grandparents or third-party caregiver. 

Alexis has many years of protecting the best interest of children through her work with Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) – ensuring the safety and best interests of children through the court system. She has developed strong relationships with judges and colleagues throughout Yamhill, Marion and Polk counties. 

Initiating third party custody, guardianship, or visitation proceedings can be extremely complicated. Alexis Bishop Stern has built a career fighting for the best interests of children and families and can help you navigate third party custody proceedings.