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How To Get Temporary Custody as an Extended Family Member in Florida
Many children live with extended family members in Florida for various reasons. Sometimes, a child might reside with an extended family member because a parent is unfit or unable to care for the child. In other cases, a child may move in with an extended family member after a parent’s death.
Florida laws recognize the need to provide temporary custody of children to extended family members. The process of petitioning the family court to obtain temporary custody can be found in Florida Statutes Chapter 751.
FAQs about temporary custody for extended family members in Florida include:
Which Extended Family Members Can Seek Temporary Custody of a Child?
Florida Statute §751.011 defines “extended family member” as a relative of a minor child within the third degree by marriage or blood to the parent. Additionally, extended family members can include a step-parent married to the child’s parent if the step-parent is married to one of the child’s parents.
However, the step-parent cannot be a party to a pending divorce, domestic violence, legal separation, or other criminal or civil action related to the child’s parent or parents.
Therefore, examples of extended family members who could petition the court for temporary custody include:
An extended family member may also be “fictive kin” as defined in Florida Statute §39.01. Fictive kin is a person unrelated by marriage, birth, or adoption who has an emotionally significant relationship with a child. The characteristics of the relationship are that of a family member.
Why Do Extended Family Members Seek Temporary Custody?
Extended family members seek temporary custody of a child living with them to make legal decisions for the child. Without custody, the family member could not make decisions regarding medical care, education, and extracurricular activities.
The reasons why an extended family member might seek temporary custody of a child include, but are not limited to:
The parent is unfit or unable to care for the child
A parent is called for active military service
The child requires special care that the parents cannot or will not provide
The parents abandon the child
A parent becomes seriously ill or has a catastrophic injury that prevents the parent from caring for the child
The child was the victim of sexual abuse or child abuse
The parent is too young or immature to care for the child
A parent has a mental or physical disability that prevents the parent from caring for the child
Family relationships can be challenging. There could be many reasons a child needs to live with an extended family member. The court considers all factors relevant to the case to decide whether granting temporary custody to an extended family member is in the child’s best interest.
Do You Need Parental Consent for Temporary Custody by an Extended Family Member?
The court may grant temporary custody of a child to an extended family member without parental consent. A parent might consent to the award of temporary custody, making the process easier and quicker.
Parents may challenge an award for temporary custody to an extended family member. In that case, the family member has the burden of proving that awarding temporary custody is in the child’s best interest.
Factors a judge considers when deciding to award temporary custody to an extended family member include:
The ability of a parent to place the child’s needs and best interests before the parent’s needs
Whether a parent can provide a safe and stable living environment for the child
The parent’s mental and health conditions
A parent who challenges temporary custody should be prepared to provide evidence that maintaining custody of the child with the parent is in the child’s best interest. Parents should not assume they will not lose custody if they challenge a family member’s petition for temporary custody.
When Does Temporary Custody End for an Extended Family Member?
Temporary custody does not have a defined duration. The person could surrender custody of a child back to the parent. A parent could petition the court to regain custody of their child.
In all cases, the court considers the best interests of the child. The purpose of temporary custody is to protect and ensure the child has a stable, safe home.
Do I Need a Lawyer To File for Temporary Custody as an Extended Family Member?
It is best to seek legal advice before filing a custody action. Winning temporary custody depends on the strength of your evidence. A child custody lawyer understands Florida custody laws and the evidence required to prove that granting temporary custody would be in a child’s best interest.
An attorney helps you gather the evidence you need to win a custody case. In addition, your lawyer advises you about the law, your legal options, and what to expect during the custody action.