Actions That Can Lead To Temporary Custody By A Relative
Parents are historically and legally viewed as the individuals in the best position to care for their child, and the law requires a lengthy process and egregious conduct before this presumption will be overlooked. In fact, it is rare for a non-parent to receive any parental authority, and in many cases, non-parents have no right to even file a petition asking for custody. Of course, exceptions are made if dangerous or unhealthy conditions exist in the child’s environment. In addition, some parents fall into unfortunate circumstances that impair their ability to adequately care for their child. Florida law recognizes that parents may need the help of extended family members to care for their children on a long-term basis, and has a provision that allows parents to consent to temporary custody by a family member, or alternatively, permits family members to request custody rights. A grandfather was recently granted custody of his granddaughter after the mother placed the baby under a planter to conceal the birth. Not all cases of temporary custody are so extreme, and a variety of circumstances could necessitate giving a relative the authority to make child-related decisions. A discussion of when a temporary custody may be requested, and how courts analyze these petitions, will follow below.
When/Who Can Ask for Temporary Custody
Given the broad control parents are given over their children, no ordinary circumstance would be enough to justify taking this control away in favor of another adult. Thus, in order to petition for temporary custody, one of the following situations must apply:
- both parents must consent to the transfer of authority; or
- the extended family member must have current physical custody of the child and be caring for the child fulltime as a de facto
The overarching purpose of this statute is to provide the non-parent with the authority needed to perform such tasks as enrolling the child in school and making medical decisions, both of which are greatly impeded without official documentation. Consequently, only certain relatives, to ensure the person selected has sufficient involvement with the family to make decisions in line with the parents’ wishes, may petition for custody. These relatives include:
- up to third-degree blood or marriage relations to a parent – great-grandparents, first cousins, great uncles/aunts, etc.; or
- stepparents, provided they are still married to one parent and not involved in a legal action to obtain a divorce or other matter against the parent.
There are two types of custody an extended family member could request: temporary custody and concurrent custody. Concurrent custody involves giving the relative parental authority that exists alongside that of the child’s parents. This custody requires the consent of both parents, and must be denied if one objects. In this case, temporary custody could be awarded if the court finds the parents are unfit (due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment), but may grant them visitation if temporary custody is approved. However, the best interests of the child must always factor into the equation. Further, existing child support obligations may be redirected to the relative for the child’s care, which can be a hurdle for family members wanting to help. These orders may be reviewed and modified or terminated at the request of either parent – in the case of temporary custody, it will be granted if the parent is found fit, and with concurrent custody, withdrawal of consent is enough to end the arrangement. As is often the case, these petitions do not arise under the best of circumstances, and an experienced family law attorney should be consulted about the most appropriate arrangement that will protect the child’s best interests.
Child custody issues of any type tend to create a lot of emotion across families, making it difficult to discern the right path. The attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. can guide you to the option that will best address your needs and the child’s interests. If you have questions about parental rights or child custody issues, contact the Fort Lauderdale law firm for a free consultation.