CUSTODY PETITIONS BY NON-PARENTS
Even third parties can petition for the custody of a child under very strict circumstances, if the court finds that "extraordinary circumstances" exist, allowing the third party non-parent to come in and file a petition for custody.
The custody court will not even entertain a non-parent's petition for the custody of a child unless it first determines extraordinary circumstances exist, allowing the inquiry into the best interests of the child.
Our Court of Appeals in 1976, in the well-celebrated case of BENNET V. JEFFRIES, stated, "the parent has a 'right' to rear its child and the child has a right to be reared by its parents. However, there are exceptions created by extraordinary circumstances illustratively, surrender, abandonment, persistent neglect, unfitness and an unfortunate or involuntary disruption of custody over an extended period of time."
Our courts have held that the right of a parent to rear his or her child is superior to all others. The right could be dissolved only by abandonment, surrender or unfitness.
A natural parent's superior right to all others to rear his or her child can be challenged when the court finds that extraordinary circumstances exist.
In that case, the court shifts its inquiry into what custodial arrangement is best for the child and could determine a custodial arrangement, in which the parent loses the custody of the child.
Under certain circumstances, grandparents have the right to petition for visitation with their grandchildren, and even for custody if the circumstances allow. I shall discuss this with any grandparent seeking Court intervention because certain circumstances have prevented access to their grandchildren.