I was asked by my niece to take care of her daughter, who is 6 years old, for an undetermined amount of time. I picked her up in Kentucky and brought her to live with me. My niece lives in Illinois, has been trying to go to college, but never seems to finish. She is constantly in abusive relationships and her daughter has seen this. Her daughter has lived with me, in New York, since August, 2012. I have been trying to get legal guardianship, but now the father has said he wants her. He has only been in her life here and there for about 6 months out of the 6 years. He is a convicted criminal and has never paid court ordered child support for six years. I know that this child will not have a good life with him or my neice. What legal actions do I have?
Consult with an experienced family law attorney immediately. You seem to be a few months short of the six month rule to have NYS as the court to hear the case. You also have a Bennett vs, Jeffreys issue regarding the parents not being qualified for custody.
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In order for a non-biological parent to get custody of a child it is necessary to prove "extraordinary circumstances". In other words, there must be an issue of abandonment or risk of harm (abuse, neglect) to child. Extraordinary circumstances must be shown even before the court considers the "best interests of the child". Biological parents are always presumed to have a greater right to raise their child than a non-biolgical parent. Usually the best resolution in these cases is for the parties to agree to joint legal custody with the non-biolgical parent having primary physical custody. Of course, this is always without prejudice to the biological parents who can always petition the court to regain custody in the future but if the child has been living with you for many years without active involvement of the parents, it may be easier at that point to prove "extraordinary circumstances". In my experience these casse should never be pursued without a lawyer so ultimately my advice is to seek a lawyer to represent you in this.