I am writing a play in which an unmarried mother dies in childbirth due to complications caused by cocaine use. Before she goes in for the fatal delivery (the child lives), she asks her sister to promise to raise the child because she doesn't want her cocaine dealing boyfriend and his mother to get custody. Because of the death the biological father dramatically reforms. His mother petitions the court for custody. Even though he feels the sister would do a better job of raising the child, how would the court be likely to rule? I don't mean for this to appear frivolous because I think the parental issues presented in the play are important for a large audience, and I want to get the legal issues right.
2 Answers from Attorneys
If it is that important to your book, I'd suggest contacting lawyers in your area who handle these matters and offer an acknowledgement or credit in the book in exchange for the consultation. Just as lawyers would answer a real question, these cases are not decided on two sentences of information.
Generally speaking, the natural guardian of the child would be the biological father and he would be entitled to custody; however, a third party might obtain custody if she could prove that the biological father is unfit; this is very general and judges have a lot of discretion. I agree with Mr. Riddle, you might want to contact a sitting family law judge or law school professor and give them an acknowledgement if they gave you a hypothetical legal opinion. A professor might be better since they like hypotheticals.
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