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SamanthaMarie's avatar

Is it possible for a sibling to take custody of another sibling?

Asked by SamanthaMarie (54 points ) January 17th, 2013

I am 24 years old. I work full time as well as go to school full time for nursing, I have a stable roof over my head and transportation, no children. I have a younger sister who is 5, she is currently staying at my grandparents house but they have no legal rights at the moment. Sorry for the length. Her biological father who is paying child support right now is a registered sex offender. Our mother has had 5 children, me she gave custody up of to get out of jail. A 15 year old who is with her biological father due to winning custody from our mother. A 11 year old who is with her biological father due to winning custody from out mother as well, and a 6 year old boy who has been adopted by my grandparents due to our mother giving him up for adoption, and the last one, the one I am asking about my mother still has custody of, my mother is a 40 something year old woman whom is in and out of jail about 2 a year for the last 10 years. She has done prostitution, she has been caught selling and doing drugs, severe ones, and has written fraudulent checks as well as robbery and other legal issues. She is still doing drugs and isn’t stopping, she will not give up custody of my sister because she is getting the child support weekly and won’t give that up. She has no job, she has no car, she has no actual roof over her head, they have slept in vehicles. She is an unfit mother needless to say. I want to take custody of Tori from our mother and give her a good life. Is this possible?

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26 Answers

tranquilsea's avatar

You’d have to go through the steps of 1. getting child welfare involved 2. getting child welfare to rule that she is unfit to parent and then child welfare has to successfully sever her parental rights 3. getting child welfare to agree to let you raise the child.

Sadly, that is a long uphill battle that doesn’t guarantee anything.

Edit: I just realized that you don’t want to adopt your sibling you just want custody. You’d still have to follow the steps I outlined above UNLESS you could get your mom to sign over custody to you which may be easier than getting the state to.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Wow. Your family story is horrific, and my heart goes out to you and your siblings.

Yes, a sibling can certainly become the legal guardian of other siblings. In some cases, even underaged—but mature and responsible—siblings have been given custody of their younger brothers and sisters.

You need some counsel and advice. Can you afford to hire an attorney who practices family law? If not, you can seek help from your city or county’s social services agency. You’re about to enter a twisty, confusing maze of applications and procedures, and you’ll benefit by having someone to help you navigate your way through.

wildpotato's avatar

It is possible. A friend of mine got custody of his 12-year-old brother from their mom when he was 24. I wish I had more details for you, but I will Facebook him and get back to you. I think you are a wonderful person for wanting to do this. Welcome to Fluther :)

SamanthaMarie's avatar

A little more info CPS has been called on her at least 15 for different accounts, Tori has not been physically abused yet and that’s all CPS seems to be looking at there is an open CPS Case on her right now, she is an unfit mother and cannot properly care for this child she is around people who are harmful to this child mostly all have been in prison. Tori is mentally unstable and is not up to par with other children her age she will be starting school next year and Tina won’t be able to even register her I doubt she will even try.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, being a sibling is not a drawback. I think you would have a much better chance if you have actual physical custody of the child. Perhaps the mother will let her stay with you for a vacation or treat.

You need to have an independent means of support, not counting on child support. If you work, you need a child care plan in place. I suggest you talk to a lawyer, they often provide a consultation for free.

SamanthaMarie's avatar

Thank you I will be consulting with a lawyer of some sort. I just wanted to get some advice from others to see if this would be completely pointless. I still have to try.

RockerChick14's avatar

Yes it is possible.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Your story is so compelling, and what you’re trying to do is so just and right, you might find an attorney who’s willing to help you pro bono. There’s no guarantee that this will happen, but the idea’s worth exploring.

hearkat's avatar

Yes. Here in NJ, when Hurricane Sandy hit, a tree fell on a vehicle killing both parents in the front, but two kids in the back seat were OK. Their older sister was away at college. She’s 19, and has taken custody of her brothers.

Since your mother will not give up custody, you will have to prove that she is unfit in the courts, and also prove that you are fit to raise your sister. I commend you for rising above your past, and choosing to do the right thing for her. I wish you and Tori all the best.

tranquilsea's avatar

Just an FYI for you: my best friend is currently raising her nephew (her hubby’s sister’s child). That kid was the focus of many child welfare investigations and interventions. The SIL, after being told he was going to be taken away from her, begged my friend and her husband to take him and even went to a notary to legally sign over a custody of sorts. Three years later she decided she wanted him back and they ended up in a 2 year court battle in which they racked up $40,000 in legal bills. They have custody of him and she’s been ordered to pay their legal bills but that’s never going to happen.

The goal of child welfare is to keep the kids with the mother, if at all possible. If they see even a sliver of hope they’ll make overtures and help the mom.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@tranquilsea “The goal of child welfare is to keep the kids with the mother, if at all possible. If they see even a sliver of hope they’ll make overtures and help the mom.”

That’s certainly true, although @SamanthaMarie‘s mother sounds as if she’s beyond hope. That could be @SamanthaMarie‘s salvation in the battle she’s about to face.

tranquilsea's avatar

@PaulSadieMartin the sad thing is that @SamanthaMarie may be seeing the true picture and child welfare is not. People always put their best foot forward especially when the stakes are this high.

SamanthaMarie's avatar

Thank you all for your advice it is greatly appreciated. I have learned very well that the system will try to keep the child with the mother, the sad thing is that she doesn’t even care to have the child, Tori is staying at my grandparents right now until Tina can “get her act together” but she hasn’t even called to check on her as long as she is getting the child support than she doesn’t bother with Tori, when she went to jail most recently about a month ago we had to go searching for Tori because of the place that she said Tori was at had an eviction lockout on the door we couldn’t find Tori for a day. At the moment she is safe at my grandparents but that is only temporary it isn’t a permanent home for her, Tina can take her when she pleases and that isn’t right, she has been able to get past the system so much in every legal aspect. She has used us all as expendable assets.

CWOTUS's avatar

Welcome to Fluther, @SamanthaMarie. I hope you stick around.

It may be difficult, to the point where it’s not worth your time to attempt it because of the difficulty, to obtain “custody”. But it may be simpler to obtain “guardianship”. I don’t know the legal distinction between these.

That’s why you do need an attorney. See if you can contact someone from the Legal Aid Society. They do pro bono work on exactly your types of issue and to help people with exactly your intent to do what is best for a helpless family member.

I wish you luck.

EDIT: If the money is the key thing for your mother, and if you can afford the cost of caring for your sister, then you may be able to make a deal with your mother to take Tori and let your mother keep the money. If she’s as irresponsible as you say, then she might grab at that chance. But then you’d have to take care of Tori with no extra money, which may be difficult. I expect it’ll be worth it, though, if you can swing it.

RandomGirl's avatar

I would just like to say: Good for you! I’ll be waiting to hear what comes of your case, as will several other people here, I’d bet. I wish every kid in this situation had a wonderful older sibling like you.

SamanthaMarie's avatar

The truth is I just want what is best for Tori, I know what it feels like to grow up in that kind of lifestyle its not safe, and Tori is a very pretty little girl being around the people my mother is around all the time makes it very hard for her innocence to be protected. If it wasn’t for my family members fighting for me I never would have gotten out. I want someone to fight for her, under the circumstances no one else has the ability, Thank you everyone for your advice it has been extremely beneficial and has given me some hope when I had very little. I appreciate all your kind words.

philosopher's avatar

You could probably apply for Guardianship of your younger sister threw the Family Court System.
You could go speak with someone there and explain the problem. You could ask for advice. There is also Legal Aid. They work for free for people who can not afford lawyers.
If you can prove your the best choice you will get Guardianship.
Since your father and grandparents may fight you who should consult with Legal Aid.
Good luck.

cazzie's avatar

Yep. You can get custody of a younger sibling. Depending on what State you are in, you need to start proceedings and if the grandparents and anyone else who could claim custodial rights are cooperative, it could go quite smoothly. Your mother hasn’t got a leg to stand on in court, having been deemed an unfit mother in the past and the only reason she has Tori is that no one has challenged her on it. I am glad she is finding some safety with your grandparents, but if they aren’t willing to go through the court system for this young one for what ever reason, then stepping up is a reasonable and admirable thing for you to do. Hats off. If you and your grandparents can stand together as a unit at any hearing it would certainly benefit your goal… and ultimately, Tori.

I just want to give you a big hug and say welcome to Fluther. I would start by asking someone in Social Services for advice on which route to take.

SamanthaMarie's avatar

Thank you very much! I think I am going to first start by asking my mother in hopes that she will see that this is best for her and that the child support she is getting isn’t worth damaging Tori for the rest of her life, in short my mother is trash I don’t want Tori to grow up thinking she is that to and doesn’t deserve better because she does. I am going to do everything I can to keep her safe, my grandparents are in there 60’s and they already adopted our 7 year old brother Trevor so to take Tori on permanently would not be possible, I have the means to do this, I am going in a very good direction in my life and I can benefit her life as well, and I think that this is the best way for her to be happy and in a healthy environment

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tranquilsea's avatar

You may want to start by offering to take her for weekends. She may just inadvertently give you more and more custody as time goes on. Sounds very backhanded but if your sister is getting a supportive weekend then even just that will be beneficial for her.

SamanthaMarie's avatar

The thing is my grandparents have her right now, but they have no legal rights so Tina can take her whenever she please, but as long as Tori is getting taken care of at my grandparents and they don’t ask her for any of the child support money that she’s getting weekly, she lets her stay over there and doesn’t even visit.

snapdragon24's avatar

Wow…I am out of words but you seem mature, responsible
and completely dettached from your mother (rightfully so) and Im sorry she has made everyone’s life a living. I cant see why you wouldn’t win custody or wouldnt be allowed to have custody over your sibling! I hope the world turns to your favor and you can all
move away from the past with your heads up high!

SamanthaMarie's avatar

Hello Everyone! I just wanted to thank all of you for the helpful advice, it was greatly appreciated! My mother agreed to give me power of attorney of Tori, which I took, it still does not protect me in regards to her verbally revoking it, but I had no choice really. I have had her for 2 months going on 3, my mother has not visited with her yet and has only spoken to her twice, CPS has been to my home and approved and agreed that Tori is safest here but since my mother willingly did this they closed the case. Everything is good as of right now, she has her own room with all her toys and clothes and she is happy here. The only question is how long will this last with my mother allowing this to go on, and where to go from here, and advice would be helpful.

CWOTUS's avatar

Glad to hear your news. We’re always here, and with TONS of advice. Ask away.

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