A “de facto” custodian is a person who has been the primary caregiver for and financial support for a child for at least six months if the child is less than three years of age or for at least one year if the child is at least three years of age.
Once someone is found to be a de facto custodian, he or she is entitled to be added as a party in a custody proceeding regarding the child. His or her opinion regarding custody issues can then be considered by the judge. When parents are found to be unfit, custody can be awarded to a de facto custodian.
Can de facto custodian’s get a visitation order, if they cannot make the case for custody? The de facto custodian statute (Ind. Code 31-9-2-35.5) is silent on the question of visitation. There is, however, limited case law to support an argument for visitation for a non-parent who qualifies as de facto custodian.