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What happens if a child's custodial parent dies

Massachusetts parents who are divorced might wonder who would get custody of the child if the custodial parent died. Generally, the noncustodial parent will get custody although if that parent is the father, it is necessary for paternity to have been established. This means that either the father has signed a formal acknowledgement of paternity or his name is on the birth certificate. If this is not the case, then the father will need to follow state law in establishing paternity in order to get custody.

Other people who might get custody of a child after the custodial parent's death include grandparents or other relatives. Ideally, if a parent is not available, a close family member may take the child in. Otherwise, the child becomes a ward of the state and enters the foster system. If the child goes to a foster home, relatives might need to establish their visitation rights.

Another option if no family member can take the child is known as third-party custody. This means that a family friend might take the child in. In deciding whether to award custody to someone outside the family, the court will consider the relationship between the child and the individual and the child's best interests. It is also generally necessary for no other close relatives to be seeking custody.

Custody issues can be some of the most difficult aspects of divorce to navigate since so many emotions are involved. However, it is important to keep a child's best interests in mind, and parents may be able to reach an agreement rather than taking the matter to litigation. Parents who are concerned about paternity issues or who might become their child's guardian if one or both of them dies might want to discuss the situation with an attorney.

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