Caring for a child creates a unique bond that cannot be broken. Many children find themselves in the care of a grandparent, aunt, or sibling when their own parents are unable or unavailable to provide a loving home.

If you have been caring for a child that is not your biological offspring, it's important to protect your rights through legal action. Non-parental custody can be obtained through several different actions, and your attorney will be able to help you decide which is in your best interest.

1. Apply for legal guardianship.

The easiest way to obtain custody of a child that is in your care is through legal guardianship. You can apply for legal guardianship only when you have the written consent of both biological parents.

Since the parents are agreeing to let you have custody of their child, there are no lengthy legal battles to engage in. It's important to keep in mind that both biological parents retain the right to revoke their consent at any time, which would negate your status as a legal guardian over the child in your care.

2. Secure non-parent visitation rights.

If a child that you have been caring for in your home will be returned to his or her parents, you will want to ensure that you are still able to remain a part of the child's life. This can be done by applying for non-parent visitation rights.

A court will evaluate your relationship with the child and determine if limiting your access to the child will cause harm. Since a young child will be bonded to those who have provided care, the child may suffer if its biological parents do not allow you to visit. Securing non-parent visitation rights ensures that you will be able to see the child you have temporarily cared for throughout his or her life.

3. File a non-parent custody petition.

The most difficult type of non-parental custody to seek out is full legal custody of a child. You must file a non-parent custody petition with a family court to begin the process. A judge will carefully review your suitability as a long-term caregiver, as well as the suitability of the biological parents before awarding custody.

It must be in the child's best interest to remain in your home for non-parental custody to be granted. An experienced family law attorney will be able to help you prove your own suitability and show that giving the child back to his or her biological parents would be detrimental as you seek non-parent custody. For more information, contact a law office like Hertz & Kearns.