WHAT IS A RELATIVE CAREGIVER ACTION?
It goes by many informal names: Grandparent Custody, Temporary Relative Custody, Chapter 751 Action, and the actual title of Chapter 751 is “Temporary Custody of Minor Children by Extended Family.” Florida Statutes tell us that the purpose of the act is to recognize that children sometimes live in the care of their extended families, voluntarily placed there on a temporary basis by their parents.
It is commonly used in situations where young parents join the military and may be subject to deployment and other upheavals for a few years, and it is commonly used when parents of children fall on financially hard times or have substance abuse issues. While the parents of these children may otherwise have subjected them to abuse or neglect fueled by poverty or drug use, these children are not going to be the subject of a DCF investigation because the parents recognized their shortcomings and did the right thing: they placed the child with a family member.
However, these extended family members are unable to achieve certain things necessary for the child in their custody because they lack a legal document that explains and defines their relationship to the child. For instance, they are unable to effectively consent to the care of the child by medical providers or maybe even to register the child for school. While sometimes, people use powers of attorney or other similar legal documents to get around these problems, they are not fully effective because they merely authorize the relative to act on the child’s behalf, but do not formalize a custodial relationship. Therefore, the Florida Legislature crafted a statute just for these family villages who are helping to raise these children.
WHY WOULD I NEED A RELATIVE CAREGIVER ACTION TO BE FILED ON MY BEHALF?
If you have children in your custody who are related to you, but have no formal documentation that defines your relationship, or find that a power of attorney or other similar document has limitations that are thwarting the care of the children in your custody, a Relative Caregiver Action can solve those problems. It provides for you to do everything for a child a parent would be authorized to do. It can serve in place of the parents, if they are not in a stable place to assist with the child, or it can serve concurrently with the parents’ authority, allowing you to be an additional arm of the custodial relationship to assist parents who may be getting on their feet.
DO YOU NEED THE PARENTS’ CONSENT TO GET A TEMPORARY RELATIVE CUSTODY ORDER?
This type of order usually is entered with the parents’ consent, or at least the mother’s consent. If there is only one legal parent, i.e. the child is born out of wedlock and the father’s paternity has not been established, you only need the mother’s consent. However, these actions can be pursued if the legal parent or parents are not fit. If you are related to a child or children for whom you can provide care when their parents cannot, and you don’t need the Department of Children and Families involved with your family, pursuing a private relative custody order may fit your needs.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE RELATIVE OR PARENTS WANT TO UNDO IT?
These orders are “temporary,” but in legal parlance, all that means is “until further order of the court.” Sometimes, when parents don’t get back on their feet, they stay in place for many years. Otherwise, they can be undone by mutual consent of the parties or, in the case where consent was not initially given by the parent or parents, the parents must petition the court and demonstrate their fitness to dissolve the temporary relative custody order.