Getting custody of a sibling can be a particularly tricky type of custody battle. Siblings are often close in age and they share one or both parents, making the fight emotionally draining. Although a sibling may have selfless reasons for attempting to gain custody – such as if the child's parent is abusive or neglecting or the biological parents have died – the court will still want him to demonstrate that he is stable and independent and that he is able to financially support his sibling.
Make Sure a Custody Fight Is Necessary
Ask your sibling's parents or legal guardians to relinquish legal custody of the child. If they're aware that they're unable to provide adequate care, they might actually appreciate the opportunity for a solution to the problem. If they agree to name you the child's legal custodian, it will make the entire situation much smoother and more pleasant for you, them and your sibling.
If You Have to Go to Court
File an application for custody in the court where your sibling and his legal guardian live. If the child lives with someone other than his legal guardian, you might be able to file in the court that has jurisdiction where the child lives. The court clerk should be able to tell you. For example, if your sibling has been living with you, you may be able to file for custody in your local county court even though you don't yet have legal custody.
Making Your Case
You'll need proof that demonstrates that your sibling's legal guardians are abusive, neglectful or otherwise harming the child. Courts are very reluctant to take custody and guardianship from a parent unless the child is actually in danger of harm. You'll also have to thoroughly demonstrate your own capability for supporting and caring for your sibling.
Know Court Rules and State Law
Your sibling must typically be under age 18 or otherwise legally dependent, and you must be over age 18 or legally emancipated. The procedure for filing a request with the court for custody, or even for putting agreed-upon custody terms into a court order, can vary by state. You'll need certain forms and documents. You may need the help of an attorney or legal aid.
Although unforeseen tragedies can occur that leave survivors scrambling for answers, being prepared is always the best solution. If you know you would want custody of your siblings should his parents pass away, ask them to name you as his legal guardian in their will. This will minimize legal wrangling should the unthinkable occur.
If you're unable to obtain custody of your sibling, consider filing for visitation. This will at least enable you to continue seeing him and allow you to continue being a positive influence.
If your sibling has been placed in foster care, you can also apply to the state to become his foster parent. The rules and rights for this differ from state to state, but most prefer that children live with family members whenever possible rather than strangers.