No parent wants to think about what is going to happen to their child if the parent passes away. Unfortunately, this is something that does happen. The way that the child custody plays out after a parent dies depends on a variety of factors.
If both parents are still living together, the living parent would likely be able to just continue living. Although, the deceased parent’s family members might push for visitation with the child.
If the primary parent of a child passes away, the noncustodial parent would have to go through a court process to get custody of the child. This might be very involved, but if the child custody was a co-parenting or shared model, it might not be as involved.
If both parents pass away, the court will look at guardianship documents. Absent of those, the court will look into the grandparents and other relatives to care for the child. Other family members might seek visitation with the child.
In some cases, stepparents might care for the child or continue to be part of the child’s life if the parent to whom they were married passes away. This is often a sensitive situation that must be handled very carefully.
Another consideration that might come up in these cases is the presence of any abuse, child neglect or addictions. In these cases, the remaining parent might not be fit to care for the child. The court will then look at other options that might be in the best interests of the child, which is the ultimate goal of any child custody case.
Source: FindLaw, “What Happens to Child Custody When a Custodial Parent Dies?,” George Khoury, Esq., accessed June 23, 2017