What Happens to a Child When the Custodial Parent Dies?

In general, if a custodial parent passes away before the child reaches the age of majority, the surviving parent would be entitled to sole legal custody. However, other family members, such as grandparents, aunts, or uncles may attempt to get custody of the child by filing to have an independent proceeding, such as one for guardianship, dependency, or, in the case of grandparents, a petition for grandparent visitation. A knowledgeable family law attorney in Ventura County can assist you with respect to the particulars of your case.

Other family members may be given custody of the child if they can demonstrate that it would not be in the child’s best interest to be in the surviving parent’s custody, such that placing that child with the surviving parent would be damaging to the child. The same holds true, even if the deceased parent had both exclusive legal and physical custody and the other parent had not been involved in the child’s life during the last few years.

If a custodial parent dies and the other parent, who has been out of the child’s life for a long period of time, all of a sudden takes interest in the child, that may lead one to question the surviving parent’s motives. In some instances, it may simply be that the surviving parent has some sense of regret for having been gone all this time; thus, he or she has a renewed interest in wanting to provide and care for the child. However, there are cases, particularly those in which the deceased parent has left behind a large estate, where it is possible that the surviving parent’s interest is solely because of money and greed.

If you believe that you would benefit from the services of a competent family law attorney in Ventura County, please contact Gary Mitchell for a free consultation.

Gary Mitchell, Attorney at Law
Westlake Village Divorce Lawyer

4195 East Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 240
Westlake Village, California 91362


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