In many cases, finalizing your Florida divorce can take a long time—almost certainly longer than you anticipated when you filed. Temporary custody orders for an extended family member can provide stability for the children during the divorce, particularly if your divorce is a particularly contentious one. There are other legal situations in which temporary custody could benefit the child or children as well when controversial circumstances exist. Florida law recognizes that many children currently live with and are well-cared for by extended family members, particularly grandparents.
Unfortunately, absent a court order, this family member may have little authority to perform the necessary day-to-day duties of a substitute parent. In situations where a family member could provide the necessary stability to the child or children during this time, Florida family law form 12.970(a) Petition for Temporary Custody by Extended Family would be used. The “relative of a minor child within the third degree by blood or marriage to the parent” is considered “extended family,” as is the “stepparent of a minor child if the stepparent is currently married to the parent of the child and is not a party in a pending dissolution, separate maintenance, domestic violence or other civil or criminal proceeding in any court of competent jurisdiction involving one or both of the child(ren)’s parents as an adverse party.”
The extended family member must either have the signed, notarized consent of the child or children’s legal parents or must be an extended family member with whom the child or children live who is currently caring for those children full-time, in the capacity of a substitute parent. Should one of the parents object to your Petition for Temporary Custody by Extended Family Member, you would only be able to obtain temporary custody when evidence a parent is unfit exists. It is not an easy process to prove a parent unfit—the parent must have abused, abandoned or neglected the children to the extent the court believes the children are at risk. When an extended family member is seeking custodial rights to care for a child or children concurrently with the child or children’s parents, then Florida family law form 12.970(b) Petition for Concurrent Custody by Extended Family would be used.
In either of the above situations, a parent will be required to sign either Florida family law form 12.970(c), Waiver of Service of Process and Consent for Temporary Custody by Extended
Family or 12.970(d), Waiver of Service of Process and Consent for Concurrent Custody by Extended Family. These forms tell the court that the parent agrees to grant temporary custody of a minor child or children to an extended family member and that the parent also agrees to waive service of process. If the court finds that granting temporary custody of the child or children to an extended family member is in the child or children’s best interests, Florida family law forms 12.970(e), Order Granting Petition for Temporary Custody by Extended Family or 12.970(f) Order Granting Petition for Concurrent Custody by Extended Family must be prepared and signed by a judge. This form grants the extended family member temporary authority to:
• Provide consent for necessary and reasonable medical and dental care for the child(ren)
• Secure copies of the child(ren)’s records (medical, dental, psychiatric, educational and birth records)
• Enroll the child(ren) in school
• Grant or withhold consent for the child(ren) to be placed in a special school program
• Do all things necessary for the care of the child(ren)
The Order Granting Petition for Temporary Custody by Extended Family also details when the parent(s) will have time-sharing with the temporary custodian. If the mother and/or father are prohibited from having any contact with the minor child(ren), this will be noted on the form. If the Petitioner in the case requests child support, this will be noted; should the court grant the support, the amount and time when the support will be paid will be stated in the Order. In the event of a divorce, the temporary custody arrangement can be expected to be in effect until the judge enters a permanent custody order, however most other temporary custody orders will have a specific expiration date.
Because there are very strict procedural safeguards in place under Florida law, if you are a family member seeking temporary custody—particularly without parental consent—it is highly advisable that you speak to a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney from The Law Place. Our attorneys have over twenty years of experience in Florida family law matters and can ensure that your Petition for Temporary Custody will be filed properly and in a timely manner. Having an attorney from The Law Place handle your case from start to finish can save you considerable time and frustration, allowing you to focus on the child or children.