If, for whatever reason, a child’s biological parents are unable to provide the attention and care the child requires, it is possible for others to assert custody over the child. The individual pursuing such an Interested Third Party adoption is often an immediate relation to the child—grandparents, aunts, and uncles—but may simply have a strong link to the child and their parent—a long-term partner of the biological parent or even a foster parent selected by the child’s mother.

Because third parties are involved, the legal situation of the adoption can be very complex. In some cases, the biological parents will consent to the transfer of custody to the third party. In this situation the parents will sign a ‘custody consent decree’ and then the court must find that the transfer of custody is in the child’s best interests. To be valid, a custody consent decree must transfer custody to a third party and inform them of their rights to make decisions for the child, indicate whether the custody transfer is temporary or permanent, and address the issue of child support.

In more complicated cases, the parents will not give their consent to the third party adoption. Courts are cognizant of the parent’s biological relationship with their children; yet, the Court has to balance the child’s welfare, emotional and physical safety and any other special circumstances when it comes to these proceedings. Custody of the child can be awarded to the third party on a temporary or permanent basis, depending on the circumstances.

To have legal standing for the adoption, an interested third party has the burden of proof to show that certain factors are met, such as abandonment, neglect, disregard for the child’s well-being, physical or emotional danger, or other extraordinary circumstances. In other words, they must show that there are ‘grave and weighty’ circumstances that exist with regard to the child’s care that make it necessary for the court to consider granting custody to someone other than the biological parent. For example, the parent may be incarcerated, struggle with substance abuse, or be missing.

As interested third party adoption frequently poses serious challenges, it is important to turn to an experienced Minnesota family law attorney. At Clausen & Hassan, our lawyers pride themselves on how they serve our clients. Please reach out today for your free consultation—you can call our office at (651) 647-0087 or contact us by email at info@clausen-hassan.com.