Temporary Custody: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and Extended Family Member Care

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Attorney, Michel L. Watson, Esq.


 Temporary custody is awarded when the parents are determined to be unfit to care for their child. The determination of fitness as a parent is based upon the child being placed at risk of abuse, abandonment, or neglect while in the care of the parent or parents. Upon the Court’s determination that Temporary Custody would be in the child’s best interests, the court will provide legal documents to allow the grandparent or another authorized party the authority to make decisions for the child’s education, medical care, and wellness.

Who Can File for Temporary Custody?

  • Extended Family Members (Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle)
  • Current stepparent of a minor child
  • An unrelated person unrelated to the minor child who has an emotionally significant relationship with the minor child, who qualifies as “fictive kin” under Florida Statutes §39.01.
  • Anyone having the signed, notarized consent of the child’s legal parents
  • Anyone caring for the child for 10 days within a 30 day period, within the last year

Court Ordered Visitation is Available to Grandparents and Extended Family Members When:

  • One or parents have passed away
  • The child was abandoned or the parent is unavailable to care for the child
  • The child is exposed to substance abuse
  • The parent is unable to provide a safe and healthy environment
  • The state has removed the child from the custody of their parents

What Is An Unfit Parent?

Pursuant to Florida Statute 751.05, a parent may be found unfit if he or she abused, abandoned, or neglected the child. Abuse includes intentionally inflicting mental or physical harm against a child. It may also include intentional acts reasonably expected to cause mental or physical injury. Additionally, a parent may be deemed abusive if he or she actively encouraged someone else to commit an abusive act against the child.

In the alternative, a parent may be found unfit due to child neglect. Neglect occurs when a parent fails to provide the care and supervision needed to support the mental and physical health of the child. A parent or caregiver may also be found neglectful if he or she failed to take reasonable steps to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by someone else.

Abandonment is also grounds for deeming a parent unfit in Florida. Abandonment of a child means that, despite being able to, a parent made no provision for the child’s support. Furthermore, abandonment of a child means a parent failed to either establish or maintain a substantial, positive relationship with the child. An official charge of child abandonment in Florida is officially known as “unlawful desertion of a child.” This occurs when a caregiver leaves a child in a situation where he or she knew or should have known that leaving would expose the child to risk of harm.  In some cases, an incarcerated parent is considered to have abandoned the child.

A Florida court may also deem a parent to be unfit if they have an established ongoing history of substance abuse (alcohol, drugs) or mental illness. A history of substance abuse or drug use does not mean that the parent lacks the ability to be a good parent, but there must be clear evidence that the parent has regained their stability and/or sobriety.

Why Temporary Custody

Temporary Custody is a short-term solution to provide for the stability and care of the minor child to allow the parent or parents complete therapeutic treatment and avoids the child being placed in the care of the Department of Children and Families.  In all cases, the court will carefully evaluate placement of the child and will avoid placing the child in a situation where they are in the care of someone who has a history of erratic, dangerous behaviors.

Many times, having a plan in place will serve the needs of the child and give the parent a goal to work toward as they work toward regaining their stability, whether that be with employment, housing, or sobriety.  Upon completion of the plan or goal, the parent can motion the court to terminate temporary custody.

Protect the best interests of the children in your life by hiring an attorney to safeguard your interests. Contact Michel Watson Law to discuss these matters and do not delay – time is of the essence in these matters!

 


 [ml1]http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0751/Sections/0751.05.html

 [ml2]http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0039/Sections/0039.01.html

 [ml3]https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/family-law-forms-dealing-with-child-custody/

 [ml4]https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/63.089