People will come to me when a family member cannot take care of their minor child. They want to take custody of the child but need a legal document giving them authority to do so.
If it is for a week or two, a power of attorney will usually work. It specifies the authority the parent is giving the relative. It works fine for vacations and similar situations but will not help if the time period will be long and the child needs to enroll in school or if the child needs to be covered by the family member’s health insurance.
A formal guardianship requires a court order appointing the guardian and brings with it oversight by the court and a limited ability for the parent to retake custody later. I have had such cases in the past, where the mother allowed the grandparent to be the guardian for a period of time. When the Mom decided that she wanted the child back, the grandparent refused. Expensive litigation followed.
So, how can we make arrangements that all of the parties know are not permanent, and avoid the oversight and cost of a guardianship? Chapter 751, Florida Statues has the answer. The statute provides that a stepparent or any relative of the minor child such as a brother, sister or grandparent, with the consent of the parent, may obtain temporary custody (technically “concurrent custody”) of the child via a court order that:
1. Allows the family member to consent to necessary and reasonable medical care of the child
2. Obtain any needed medical, dental or psychiatric records
3. Obtain birth certificates and other records
4. Obtain educational records.
5. Enroll the child in school and grant or withhold consent for testing or special programs.
6. And to do “all other things necessary for the care of the child.”
An action must be filed requesting the court order and a hearing must be held to explain to the judge why the order is needed. Once the order is entered, it will remain in effect until the parent files a motion to vacate it.
A lawyer should be used to obtain the order of concurrent custody. It is substantially less expensive than a formal guardianship and much easier to terminate. if you need my help, call my Oviedo Office and check my web site at www.pepplerlaw.com.