40-4-228. Parenting and visitation matters between natural parent and third party. (1) In cases when a nonparent seeks a parental interest in a child under 40-4-211 or visitation with a child, the provisions of this chapter apply unless a separate action is pending under Title 41, chapter 3.
(2) A court may award a parental interest to a person other than a natural parent when it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that:
(a) the natural parent has engaged in conduct that is contrary to the child-parent relationship; and
(b) the nonparent has established with the child a child-parent relationship, as defined in 40-4-211, and it is in the best interests of the child to continue that relationship.
(3) For purposes of an award of visitation rights under this section, a court may order visitation based on the best interests of the child.
(4) For purposes of this section, voluntarily permitting a child to remain continuously in the care of others for a significant period of time so that the others stand in loco parentis to the child is conduct that is contrary to the parent-child relationship.
(5) It is not necessary for the court to find a natural parent unfit before awarding a parental interest to a third party under this section.
(6) If the parent receives military service orders that involve moving a substantial distance from the parent's residence or otherwise have a material effect on the parent's ability to parent the child for the period the parent is called to military service, as defined in 10-1-1003, the court may grant visitation rights to a family member of the parent with a close and substantial relationship to the minor child during the parent's absence if granting visitation rights is in the best interests of the child as determined by 40-4-212.