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When a Custodial Parent Dies

If a custodial parent of minor child passes away, it is often unclear who will become the custodian of the child. The noncustodial parent may wish to gain custody of the child, or a family member may seek custody of the child. How this transfer of custody occurs depends a great deal on the circumstances involved in the case.

First, if it is a father who is seeking custody of the child and he was never married to the child’s mother, he must first establish paternity for the child. This can involve a DNA test, or the father can sign a formal acknowledgement of paternity. If the father already has established paternity and there is a court order regarding custody and child support, then the father should petition the court that issued the order to change custody to him and terminate his child support obligation, if necessary.

If a person other than the child’s father is seeking custody of the child, then he or she must be able to show that he or she has a strong relationship with the child, and that awarding him or her custody would be in the child’s best interests. In some situations, both the father and other family members may be seeking custody of the child, which will lead to contested court proceedings. The court is likely to enlist the services of a custody evaluator or guardian ad litem in order to determine what custodial arrangements would be in the child’s best interests. A biological parent, however, has a far superior claim to custody than does another family member.

Sometimes, if the child’s other biological parent is deceased, incarcerated, or otherwise unable to take on custody of the child, and there are no other suitable relatives who are willing to care for the child, the child will end up in the custody of the state of California. In this situation, the child is likely to be placed in foster care on a temporary or permanent basis, and adoption may become a possibility.

The Law Offices of Vincent W. Davis & Associates know how to handle all of the different issues that child custody cases involve, no matter how complex these issues may be. We understand how emotional and difficult these types of cases can be, and will be at your side throughout every step of the process. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation with one of our California juvenile lawyers and learn how we can help you with your case.