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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Dealing with custody after a parent dies

When a Tennessee custodial parent dies, determining where the child will live can be difficult. Although the first choice is often the other parent, there may be situations where another family member or close third party may seek to become the child's guardian. If there are no other alternatives, however, the child could become a ward of the state and end up in foster care.

The noncustodial parent who is the father and who wishes to seek custody will need to ensure that paternity has been established. If he did not sign the child's birth certificate or file a signed acknowledgement of paternity form, the can initiate paternity testing. If paternity has been established, he will need to talk to a family law attorney to determine what the process is for actually seeking custody of the child.

If the child does not have another parent or the other parent is unable to provide proper care for the child, relatives or a third party could step in. For example, the child's grandparents, aunts, uncles or adult cousins could become a guardian. If there are no close relatives, a godparent or neighbor who has already established a relationship with the child could be eligible.

Child custody disputes can be confusing when a custodial parent dies, especially if more than one family member wants to maintain a relationship with the child. If the child's noncustodial parent wants custody, a family law attorney can be of assistance in providing advocacy during court proceedings. The court will ultimately base its decision on the best interests of the child.

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