“De Facto Custody”: The Changing Family Unit

The concept of “family” has evolved significantly in recent decades, departing from the traditional structure of a mother, father, and two children. Nowadays, families often encompass step-parents, grandparents, half-siblings, and other configurations. This shift has brought about more intricate custody and visitation disputes.

Our experienced team of family law attorneys frequently encounter cases where extended family members or even unrelated individuals have provided substantial care for a child, only to have the child suddenly taken away by their biological parents. Sometimes the biological parent is not present in the child’s life for an extended period. Such situations are often distressing for the caregivers and children involved, prompting them to seek court-ordered custody based on their significant caregiving role as well as an attempt to provide stability for the children. This article delves into the legal avenues, such as de facto custodian status or extended parenting time under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, that may be pursued in such cases.

One approach is to pursue de facto custodian status is looking to the definition provided by Indiana Code as individuals who have served as the primary caregiver and financial supporter of a child for a specific period. However, obtaining this status requires clear and convincing evidence of their caregiving role, which may include receipts, photographs, and testimonies. With a skilled attorney, you will be able to utilize this evidence in court and to make a compelling argument that the biological parents have not been present. 

It's important to note that being recognized as a de facto custodian entails more than just securing visitation rights. While visitation rights are governed by separate statutes, such as those pertaining to post-adoption visitation for biological parents and grandparent visitation, de facto custodian status potentially leads to custody or expanded parenting time. Understanding this legal distinction is crucial when seeking to regain custody or parenting time with a child one has cared for.

For instance, in an important case involving a former boyfriend who played a significant role in raising a child, the Court of Appeals rejected the request for visitation, highlighting the importance of pursuing de facto custodian status instead. Similarly, in another case where a biological father sought visitation after consenting to the child's adoption by maternal grandparents, the court emphasized the need to follow the appropriate legal procedures, including asserting de facto custodian status if applicable.

Navigating the complexities of family law requires expertise, and having a knowledgeable attorney is crucial. Whether aiming to regain custody or secure visitation rights, it's essential to discuss the desired outcome and the nature of the relationship with the child with legal counsel. At Ciyou & Associates, P.C., our attorneys serve clients throughout the entire state of Indiana, offering guidance tailored to their specific circumstances and objectives. 

This blog post is not a solicitation and does not serve as legal advice. 


Quick Contact

Need to talk now? Fill out the quick form below and we will contact you directly.

What Our Clients Say About Us

Contact Us