When Can an Extended Family Member File for Temporary Child Custody?

There is a wide range of circumstances that may have brought a child under the care of an extended family member. This often begins as an informal arrangement until someone needs to ask the extended family member if he or she has the legal authority over the child. This can come up if someone needs to provide consent to medical treatment for the child or talk with doctors about the child. It can also come up when the child needs to be enrolled in school or sign up for school activities.

Without something official in place, an extended relative caring for a minor child will likely be unable to do these things for the child. One option for the extended family member is to adopt the child. Sometimes, however, this is not the best choice under the circumstances. Another alternative is for the family member to seek an Order of Temporary Custody by Extended Family.

Extended Family Members and Temporary Child Custody

While Florida generally refrains from the use of the term “custody,” opting for parental responsibility and timesharing instead, an Order of Temporary Custody is the exception to this rule. A temporary custody arrangement provides a mechanism for recognizing and protecting minor children living with extended family without the need for terminating parental rights. Obtaining court-ordered temporary custody will allow an extended family member caring for a child to make decisions related to the welfare of the child as though he or she had parental rights. With the order in place, the extended family member is able to:

  • Consent to medical treatment on behalf of the child
  • Obtain the child’s medical records
  • Access the child’s school records
  • Enroll the child in school
  • Consent to the child’s participation in school activities

In order to be able to obtain temporary custody of a child, the person seeking the order must be an adult. In the alternative, he or she may be an emancipated minor. Additionally, the person must be an extended family member or stepparent of the child and currently have physical custody of the child. He or she must also have had physical custody of the child for a minimum of 10 days out of any 30-day period within the past 12 months. Generally speaking, an extended family member qualifying for temporary custody is related within the third degree to the child via blood or marriage. In other words, this includes people like aunts and uncles, grandparents, first cousins, and nieces and nephews.

To obtain a temporary custody order, the qualifying person must file a petition with the court. Along with the petition, the petitioner may request child support for the duration of the temporary custody arrangement. The petitioner must obtain the consent of the parents. If this is not possible, the petitioner will need to show why the consent of the parents is unnecessary. In some cases, a parent may challenge the petition. If this happens, the court will hold a hearing to decide whether or not to grant temporary custody.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

If you are an extended family member caring for a minor child, you may want to consider adopting the child or having a temporary custody order in place. Talk to the trusted family law attorneys at Orlando Family Team. We are here to help discuss your legal options and figure out what arrangement is best for you and your family. Contact us today.