One of the more common child custody issues to come before the courts are petitions filed by extended family members seeking to gain temporary custody of a child.
While extended family members often take this step when there are concerns over neglect, abandonment or even abuse, they can also take it for far less serious reasons, such as a parent having financial issues, school or work-related commitments abroad, or a temporarily incapacitating illness.
This naturally begs the question as to why an extended family member would even bother taking such a step.
The simple answer is that being granted temporary custody vests them with the authority to make important legal decisions on behalf of the child. For example, an extended family member with temporary custody can enroll the child in school, secure school records and provide permission for school-related activities. Furthermore, they can secure access to the child's medical records and make the necessary medical decisions.
It's important to understand, however, that there are certain eligibility requirements that must be satisfied in order for an extended family member to secure temporary custody.
First, the person must fall within the legal definition of an extended family member, meaning someone related by either blood or marriage. Under Florida law, this includes only these relatives of the child:
- Grandparent, great-grandparent, great-great-grandparent
- Sister or brother
- Aunt or uncle, great-aunt or great-uncle
- Niece or Nephew
- First cousin
Second, the extended family member looking to secure temporary custody must satisfy either of the following elements:
- Be in possession of signed, notarized consents from both of the child legal parents; or
- Already living with the child and providing full-time care for them as a parent would
Those lacking consent from the legal parents will typically be required to demonstrate why parental consent is unnecessary. However, such consent is not necessary if it can be demonstrated to the court that the parent has neglected, abandoned or abused the child.
As demonstrated by the foregoing, securing temporary custody is by no means an easy process. As such, those with questions or concerns should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.