The state recognizes that many children live with and are cared for by members of their extended family. Many times a parent will place their child with a relative temporarily and they may do so because of financial issues, substance abuse issues, issues with mental or physical health, legal issues or simply because a relative may be able to provide a better home for a child than the parents. Without a court order, however, often a relative caring for a child is unable to enroll a child in school, access the child’s school records and make decisions regarding a child’s medical, dental and psychiatric care. If you are an extended family member caring for a child, even with the permission of the child’s parents, it is best that you consult with a Jacksonville family law lawyer regarding the documentation you may need to establish rights and provide the best care for that child.
In some cases, both parents have not agreed to let an extended family member visit with or care for their child. Grandparent and other relatives’ rights to visitation were fairly limited by the U.S. Supreme Court. Unless certain, specific circumstances exist to warrant court-ordered visitation, generally parents are allowed to decide if extended family members will be allowed visitation. However, with regard to custody, extended family members may be able to petition the court for temporary custody of a child if the parents are unfit to provide for the care and control of the child. To prove that parents are unfit, an extended family member must prove abuse, abandonment or neglect as defined by statute.
Both contested and uncontested petitions for custody are referred to as a Chapter 751 proceedings and pursuing temporary or concurrent custody may be a better alternative for a family rather than involving the Department of Children and Families and possibly subjecting a child to foster care placement or formal juvenile dependency proceedings if the child is not doing well in a particular home.
Another alternate custody arrangement allowed by law is a guardianship. Guardianships are heard in probate court rather than family and the forms, process and requirements differ from Chapter 751 proceedings. To discuss your family situation and what might be best for you, contact an experienced Jacksonville child custody lawyer at Cameron Baker & Associates, P.A.
We offer a free, initial half hour consultation either by phone or at the office and will discuss with you your options for proceeding, services and costs. To speak with a Jacksonville divorce attorney or family law lawyer, contact us today at (904) 683-3639.