Sometimes life takes a turn and puts you in situations that you did not anticipate. One such life-changing event is when you find yourself acting as the parents of a child or children of another family member. There are many reasons for such an arrangement, but you should know that it is very common, and you’re not alone. Most of the time, it’s certainly in the best interest of the child(ren).
Thins can go just fine for a long while, but sooner or later someone is going to inquire about the legal authority your or your spouse have over the child(ren). This most often happens when it comes time to:
- Consent to Medical Treatment
- Talk with Doctors or Obtain Medical Records
- Enroll Children in School
- Grant or Withhold Consent for the Child(ren) to be Tested
or Placed in Special School Programs, Including Exceptional Education
- Obtain School Records
- Give Consent for School Activities
- Obtain Birth Certificates and Other Official Records
- Perform Other Tasks Necessary for the Care of the Child(ren)
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a, “note” from the parents, even if it’s notarized, will bestow all of the authority upon you to legally act as a parent. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t. Even if you have Power of Attorney over the child(ren), it’s going to be a roll-of-the-dice whether or not authorities will accept that in lieu of demonstrating legal custody.
You basically have two options to obtain full legal authority to act as parents. One option is to adopt the child(ren) through a relative adoption. Contrary to what most people think, this can usually be accomplished pro se without an attorney. You can read our page or relative adoption on family adoption. If adoption is not an option for you, the remaining option is to petition the circuit court in your county for an order of Temporary Custody by Extended Family Member.
An extended family member is:
- A relative of a minor child within the third degree by blood or marriage to the parent, or
- The stepparent of a minor child if the stepparent is currently married to the parent of the child and is not a party in a pending dissolution, separate maintenance, domestic violence, or other civil or criminal proceeding in any court of competent jurisdiction involving one or both of the child(ren)’s parents as an adverse party.
A relative within the third degree means:
- Great Grandparent
- Brother or Sister
- Uncle or Aunt
- Niece or Nephew
You may file a Petition for Temporary Custody if:
- You have the signed, notarized consents of the child(ren)’s legal parents; or
- You are an extended family member who is caring full time for the child(ren) in the role of a substitute parent and with whom the child(ren) is (are) presently living.
In addition, you must currently have physical custody of the child(ren) and have had physical custody of the child(ren) for at least ten (10) days in any 30-day period within the last 12 months. Also, if you do have a “note” or other document from the parent(s), you will have to explain why it is insufficient to enable you to do all the things necessary to care for the child(ren).
The rights of the biological parents ARE NOT terminated by an Order of Temporary Custody by Extended Family.
If you do not meet the qualifications of Florida Statutes Chapter 751, and/or need legal advice about your rights under the law, you should talk to a licensed family law attorney about your options.
We also encourage you to report any suspected abuse, abandonment, or neglect to the police and/or call 1-800-96-ABUSE.
If you’ve decided that you don’t need legal advice or representation and want to handle the matter pro se, you’re invited to call us to discuss the nonlawyer legal document preparation services that we officer for filing for Temporary Custody by Extended Family in the Florida courts.