We all know someone who is raising a grandchild or niece or nephew because the child’s parents are unable or unwilling to parent the child. Though such relatives provide needed stability in the child’s otherwise precarious life, the relative is helpless when the parent suddenly decides to take the child back. Unless the relative has obtained a court order awarding temporary relative custody, there’s nothing s/he can do. The parent, even after years of absence, has the right to custody.
A power of attorney signed by a parent is better than nothing at all, but it can be revoked by the parent at any time. Some parents refuse to sign a power of attorney. They use their children as leverage to force relatives to give them money or provide 24-hour on-call babysitting services. While such extortion is reprehensible, relatives feel they have no choice but to comply with the parents’ demands when the child’s well-being is at risk.
Depending upon the circumstances, a concerned relative may be able to obtain temporary or concurrent custody to insure stability for a child. With temporary custody, the parent cannot take the child back without first obtaining the court’s permission. With concurrent custody, both the parent and the relative share custody. Neither can prevent the other from exercising custody of the child.
Any relative considering caring for or raising a grandchild, niece, nephew or sibling, for any amount of time should seek the advice of an attorney well-versed in all of the options. There is a window of opportunity to act, and it’s best to know what the options are before the window closes. Contact the office of Melissa A. Tartaglia, Esq., at (727) 835-7832 to arrange a consultation.
If you believe a child is at risk of abuse, abandonment or neglect, call 1-800-96-ABUSE to make an anonymous report.
Photo credit – Anissa Thompson