Can a parent’s rights to custody be given to other relatives or other people?
A parent’s right to custody is substantial and, while not absolute, cannot be interfered with unless the best interests of the child clearly demand it. Thus, as against other relatives and third parties, a child’s natural parent is entitled to the custody and care of the child in an initial proceeding for custody, absent a finding of unfitness. However, where the relationship between the child and a non-parent better promotes the child’s welfare than does the relationship between the biological parent and the child, a judge has some latitude to award custody to the non-parent. This will happen, however, in very few contests between a natural parent and a third party.