We know that courts prefer not to separate siblings when issuing custody orders. But what if one sibling wants custody of another? In some cases, an older sibling will want to remove a younger one from a dangerous or unhealthy parent. In other cases, a younger sibling may think they're better suited to care for a disabled older sibling.
There are legal ways to gain custody of a sibling — here's how.
Sibling's Best Interests
Getting custody of a sibling will involve court filings and orders. And any time a court is making a decision about child custody, that decision will be made in the child's best interests. While courts may defer to parents or legal guardians when deciding custody, they may look at a variety of factors when deciding whether granting custody to a sibling is in the best interests of the child:
- The child's wishes (if he or she is old or capable enough);
- The mental and physical health of the parents;
- The need to maintain stable home environment;
- The child's interaction and interrelationship with other members of the family and the household;
- The child's adjustment to school and community; and
- Whether there is evidence domestic violence, parental use of excessive discipline or emotional abuse, or parental drug, alcohol, or child abuse.
As mentioned above, courts will often also consider other children and siblings whose own custody is relevant to this child's custody arrangement, and could decide that sibling custody is in the child's best interests.
In order to legally gain custody of a sibling you will need to petition the court to become their guardian. Your sibling must typically be under age 18 or otherwise legally dependent, and you must be over age 18 or legally emancipated. The procedure for filing a request with the court for custody, or even for putting agreed-upon custody terms into a court order, can vary by state. You'll need certain forms and documents.
While state law may vary, generally guardians must be over age 18 or legally emancipated and petitioning for guardianship of a sibling under age 18 or otherwise legally dependent. The procedure for filing for guardianship, as well as the necessary forms and documents, can differ by jurisdiction, so consult with an experienced custody attorney if you are trying to gain custody of a sibling.
- Find Child Custody Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- When Can Parental Rights Be Terminated? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- How to Establish Guardianship of a Child FAQs (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Custody Considerations: Step-By-Step (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)