The Biggest Mistake Made by Third Party Custodians Can Be Avoided

Third Party Custody refers to situations in which neither biological parent has custody of a minor child. Perhaps a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or even a family friend has custody of the child. This could have come about by agreement or even with DSS involvement. Many times, the biological parents of this child are not active at all in the child’s life. The child may even grow up not knowing the parent at all. The mistake that most third party custodians make is not taking action to terminate the parental rights of the biological parent and adopt the child when legal grounds exist to do so.

So why is this a mistake? Many times, the biological parent comes back after years of being absent and selfishly wants to reinsert himself or herself into the child’s life. This can be very upsetting both to the third party custodian and the child. It can cause life long problems for the child. If there is a court order providing for visitation that has not been exercised, it can be doubly problematic.

This problem is easily avoidable. The third party custodian should file an action for termination of parental rights and adoption as soon as the legal grounds to do so exist. In South Carolina, if a parent goes for six months without visiting or supporting their child, legal grounds may exist to terminate their parental rights. This should be done without delay.

The reasons that I am typically given when I ask “why haven’t you done this before now?” include finances and apathy. Typically, the third party custodian doesn’t worry about it because the biological parent is not around causing trouble, until they are. Typically, people don’t want to pay legal fees. Understandable. However, I believe it is much cheaper and less stressful to file the action for termination of parental rights and adoption while the biological parent is choosing to be absent. It may be much more difficult and much more expensive if he or she comes back and tries to be a parent after an extended absence.

If you need help with a termination of parental rights or adoption case in Anderson County, South Carolina, send me an email:



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