When someone other than a parent wants or needs to take care of a child there are several options that are available. The right option depends greatly on the individual facts of that case and has to be evaluated case by case. There are three options that are generally available through the family courts and 1 option that is available through the probate court. In family court, each level is more comprehensive than the one before. The options are 1) Power of Attorney 2) Temporary Custody and 3) Adoption.
1) Power of Attorney: These are great choice if a person needs to have limited rights to make decisions for a child for a limited period of time. An example would be if the parent(s) are traveling outside of the US for a couple of months and friend or family member needs the ability to make basic decisions while the parents are away. These can provide access to medical records, authority to consent to medical treatment, authority to represent for school related issues. These can last for a set period of time or indefinitely BUT they can be revoked by a parent at ANY time.
2) Temporary Custody under Statute 751: This option is only available for relatives of the child. It is a great option for a more long-term arrangement and provides comprehensive rights to relative equal largely to the rights of a parent in terms of decision making. These last indefinitely and require a Court order for them to be terminated. Having said that, if everyone agrees to terminate the custody arrangement, a Court Order can be obtained easily. If the parents do not consent to the temporary custody arrangement, it is still possible to obtain temporary custody, but you must allege and prove that the parent(s) have abused, abandoned, or neglected the child(ren).
3) Adoption: This is the most extreme option available. Adoption is a one-way street that you cannot "undo" in the future. If a step-parent or relative is seeking to adopt and the parents consent, then they can be accomplished relatively easily and with reasonable costs. If the parent(s) do not agree or the person adopting is not related to the child, things become more complicated and costs rise.
Our office handles all of these matters and provides a free consultation to people exploring their options. Click here to watch our attorney Leisa M. Wintz, MS., Esq. discuss these issues.