Does my nephew have to go back with his mother if she gave me custody and he doesn’t want to leave?

I have been raising my nephew who is 15, for 7 years now do to a paper my sister wrote saying he can live with me for his scholastic years. However now she’s threatning to take him away buy he doesn’t want to leave. She has a criminal record of drug abuse and prostitution. Does my nephew have to leave with her if he refuses?

Asked on November 29, 2011 under Family Law, Florida


L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Thank you for submitting your question regarding the custody of your nephew.  First, it is quite commendable that you have taken on the responsibility of custody of your nephew, and the court will also view it that way.  Family law courts will vary from state to state, but there exists common grounds and opinions throughout family courts.  The court will be reluctant to take custody away from the biological mother.  Courts try to keep the nuclear family in tact whenever possible.  And even though you have been raising him for seven years, that has not terminated her parental rights.  However, it may effect the court’s opinion to the custody of your nephew.

When the court decides custody for a child, they utilize the best interests of the child test.  This means that the court will consider the best environment for a child.  If you can show proof that the child’s mother has been engaging in illegal and unsafe activities, then the court will have reason to either temporarily or permanently terminate her parental rights.  Additionally, courts will consider the child’s opinion as to where they want to live, but it also depends on the child’s age as to the weight of credibility the court will give to the child’s opinion.  For instance, if the child were four years old and daddy gave him junk food to eat all the time, so the child loved to be at daddy’s place, that’s not going to change the judge’s opinion as to where the child wants to live versus where the child should live.

If you need further assistance to protect your nephew, you can contact a family law attorney that can guide you with the child custody process.


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