In my practice as a family law attorney, I have seen over the years where children have essentially been raised and their daily needs provided for by family members other than the child’s parents. It happens in a variety of different contexts, and the phrase “It Takes A Village” to raise a child is more and more prevalent in our society.
When the parents are technically present and around their child, but the situation of the family environment shows that the child’s needs are better met or being met on a regular basis by another family member, such as an Aunt, Uncle, or Grandparent, and that person has taken on a de facto role as a parent to the child, I am often asked as a family law attorney what recourse in Florida does that extended family member have to protect the interests of the child? The answer is that the rights of parents are paramount in relation to their child, and the Courts in Florida, for the most part, will uphold this constitutionally, protected relationship, and not interfere with such. There are a few exceptions, however, to this rule, and one of them under Florida law is referred to as Temporary Custody of a Minor Child By an Extended Family Member. The actual provisions of the law are found in Chapter 751 of the Florida Statutes. It is important to understand that the parents’ rights are not terminated by action under this statute, but rather, the Court’s Order gives the custody of the child, and the ability to act in place of the parent to the extended family member. The Court must find that it there is clear and convincing evidence that such allowance to the extended family member is in the best interest of the child, and if granted, the Court’s Order, while in place, gives the authority to the extended family member the rights to act for and on behalf of the child with schools, medical providers, counselors, and the like. While the Court’s Order is in place, the parents, depending on the facts of the situation, have contact with the child. While the statute classifies the Court Order as temporary, by definition under the statute, the Order is in place ‘until further order of the Court,’ which in my experience can be for many years.
I have helped many family members in Central Florida over the years with seeking action with the Family Courts under this statute. If you have a situation that may fit this statute, and you would like to discuss your facts, the details of the law, and possible legal course of action as an extended family member to a child, please contact me at 386-257-1222 to schedule a consultation.