Minnesota has a statute granting a way for grandparents and other “defacto custodians” of children to seek custody of the children they are caring for and love.1  There are a myriad of circumstances that can lead to a need for non-biological parents to seek legally recognized custody of a child. At Caldecott & Forro, PLC, we have seen these cases arise where a biological parent is dead, chemically dependent, imprisoned, serving in the military, or where other circumstances make the biological parents of a child either unsuitable or unavailable to fulfill their parental role.  Often the child involved only has one parent in their life to begin with due to that parents’ dysfunctional relationship with a partner that predates the child’s birth or arose when the child was very young.

The reasons why a grandparent or other defacto custodian of a child requires legally recognized custody arise often.  For example, procedures as simple as getting a child medical care, dental care, or enrolling them in a sport or extracurricular activity in a school or day care center can require a grandparent to prove they have custody of the child. Alternatively the custody will require permission from the child’s biological parents to enroll a child in a particular activity or consent to a medical or dental treatment.  Our juvenile courts require a parent or legal guardian to be present when a child appears in juvenile court.  Finally, claiming a dependency exemption on a tax return or collection of a child’s social security benefits will, in most instances, require proof of custody.

The thresholds a person must satisfy to seek legal custody of a child are straight forward and few in number.  Generally, the person petitioning for custody of the child must be the primary caretaker of the child and provide the child a place to live for between 6 month and one year based on the age of the child during the 24 months preceding the filing of a custody petition.  In addition, the biological parent(s) must have demonstrated a lack of “consistent participation” in the child’s life as that term is defined in the statute.

At Caldecott & Forro we can provide assistance to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others who find themselves raising someone’s child. We can help you obtain all the legal authority you need to be successful.

This article is not a substitute for legal advice in the context of a specific case. Caldecott & Forro, PLC provides free initial consultations to clients and potential clients on all family law matters.

            1See Minn. Stat. §157C.01 et seq.