Protecting Your Children While You Are Away

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Timesharing is often a tricky issue, and single parents can struggle with balancing work and family responsibilities, especially if the other parent is uninvolved or lives far away. Certainly, maintaining stable employment is essential to the stability of a household generally, but what is a single parent to do when work calls them away for extended periods of time? The amount of legal authority a non-parent has over a child is very limited, even for close relatives like grandparents. The law firmly roots the right to make decisions related to a child with his/her parents, and is reluctant to transfer that authority to someone else. Parents are viewed as being in the best position to decide who should have access to a child, including when medical intervention is necessary and how the child should be educated. This authority is easy to exercise when the parent is with the child, but when the parent has to leave his/her child with a relative or other caregiver when traveling, maintaining control is difficult. Consequently, from a practical standpoint, it may be necessary to temporarily transfer authority to the child’s caregiver so this person can quickly act to protect the child. Depending on how long the parent expects to be away, several different legal mechanisms are available to give another other person authority over a child.

Power of Attorney

If the time away from the child is going to be relatively short, a power of attorney is a document that temporarily transfers authority to another person, known as the agent. The parent can choose how much authority the agent will receive, but the transfer of authority is limited and cannot authorize the agent to approve:

  • quitting school;
  • joining the military;
  • getting married; or
  • the transfer of custody to another person.

A power of attorney can, however, allow the agent to make heath care decisions in the event the child needs medical attention. It can also give the agent the ability to enroll a child in educational activities, and give the agent access to financial accounts in the child’s name. The extent of the authority granted is up to the parent, and will likely depend on how well the parent knows the agent and where the child will be staying, i.e., someone’s home versus summer camp. It is best to consult with a family law attorney on the most appropriate type of power of attorney to execute, and how much authority should be granted to the agent.

Temporary Custody

If a parent expects to be away for a long period of time, due to military deployment, for example, a more permanent option is available that allows a parent to grant temporary custody of a child to a relative. Note that this option requires the other adult to be a family member, so friends would not qualify as suitable guardians for this purpose. In this situation, a parent can agree to concurrent custody of a child, which means both the parent and the family member have essentially the same amount of rights to care for the child. Because of the broad authority given to a non-parent under this arrangement, a court must approve the transfer of custody. Both parents must consent to concurrent custody, and either parent can petition a court to modify or terminate the temporary custody order at anytime. In addition, the parents have the right to take physical custody of the child from the relative at the parent’s discretion. This option would be most appropriate when the parent will have limited ability to provide input on the child’s care, and the parent’s absence will be for a significant period of time.

Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney

Protecting a child is always a parent’s first priority, which is not necessarily easy if you have to be away. Talk to family law attorney about how you can get your child the care he/she needs, and avoid delays and hassles that can negatively affect your child. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. understands how important your children are, and will work to create a solution that is best for you and your family. Contact us for a free consultation.

Resources:

floridabar.org/public/consumer/pamphlet13/

leg.state.fl.us/STATUTES/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0751/Sections/0751.05.html

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