Custody by non parental party


My neice, who will be 5 in March was born to my brother (known drug addict & criminal) and her mother (un medicated paranoid pschyzophrenic). The birth mother has lost parental rights of her first child(not my neice) and admitted that she could not provide a good life for my neice and allowed my brother to care for her. I do not want to make this post too lenghy so I will sum it up. My brother has moved my neive to ten different homes in her almost 5 years. He has had 7 CPS cases opened against him and as a result of the last case DSS deemed that my brother was unstable and needed a stable place for my neice to live. I volunteered my home (in Indiana). My brother who lives in NC went to mediation and stated that he had another relative in NC who could take my neice. My family (me, my sister & mother) in mediation stated that the home that he was offering would not be permanent and that it was unstable also (drug abuse, unruly children, etc). DSS did the home assesment of the other family memeber and stated that this was a viable option which would allow my brother to continue to visit my neice, something he would be unavble to do if she were placed in Indiana. It has been 12 months and now the “permanent placement” is no longer willing to keep my neice because my brother has not been paying her as promised…so now DSS is involved again. I have again reached out to DSS to offer my home as a permanent placement.

In the 12 months that my neice was with the other family member DSS closed the case (stating that the situation was stable). So this case with DSS is a new case and it seems that each case starts fresh with no regard to the history and the other cases.

My husband and I are niot willing to sit back and let DSS or my brother tramatize this child with another temporary placement. So we are thinking of filing in civil court, without the help of an attorney for custody. I have acquired all the necessary documents and have begun completing them.

My question is how likely am I to get custody if there is no other family member willing to take her and I can prove that in the 12 months since she has been placed with someone else my brother has not done anything to better his situation. He is still actively on drugs has been arrested for two DUI’s in this twelve months, has not held employment and has not established a permanent place to live ( he is staying with various friends).

My plan was to persue thru civil court and DSS simultaneously and if I get nowhere then to hire an attorney.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. I am desperate to help my neice. She is a precious child who has been exposed to more in her 5 years than most of us would see in our entire lives.



I cannot say for sure how likely it is that your action to intervene will be successful. In cases where parties other than the natural parents are seeking custody you must prove that the father and the mother are unfit before you can be heard with respect to the home you can provide. These cases are extremely difficult and judges are often reluctant to remove children from their natural parents. I do not recommend that you proceed alone, and you should contact an attorney who specializes in cases involving non-parental interveners.


Do you handle these kinds of cases or can you recommend someone who does?



You should contact the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers at to find an attorney in the appropriate county.