When a family emergency hits, one thought stands out among the tangle of concerns racing through your mind: How can you make sure your children are safe and properly cared for?
The best way to make sure you have a reassuring and comprehensive answer to this question when the time comes is to start planning for it now. In this article, we’ll go over some of the key steps you can take with the help of an experienced family law attorney to make sure that your family has the right child care plan in place if an emergency occurs.
Have You Planned for These Emergencies?
Many different life events can suddenly throw your child care arrangements into confusion. Just a few examples include:
- Death or incapacity (for example, due to an auto accident, medical emergency, or illness)
- A real or perceived suicidal or depressive episode that results in voluntary or involuntary commitment under the Florida Mental Health Act, also known as the Baker Act
- Recovery from a mental or physical illness
- Substance abuse recovery
- Recovery from a period of intense grief (for example, after the passing of a loved one)
In addition to these emergency scenarios, which could happen to anyone with little notice, people with less than full U.S. citizenship need to have a care plan in place, especially if their children are legal citizens. The reality for non-citizens is that they could face deportation or unexpected travel delays at any time, especially in the current turbulent political environment. If you lack full citizenship and don’t have an emergency plan in place, your children could be deported along with you or placed in foster care in the event of an immigration-related issue.
Also note that besides planning for the custody of your children, you also need to plan for how emergency caretakers will assume custody and which financial resources will be available to those caretakers for your child’s benefit. If you don’t plan for these details, your children and their guardians could find themselves cut off from important resources like your home, property, and financial accounts.
Emergency Child Care: Legal Solutions for Parents
A signed, notarized statement detailing your emergency child care wishes or even a power of attorney isn’t always enough to make sure your child has the best caretaker in an emergency. Fortunately, parents have a wide range of legal solutions at their disposal and can grant very broad or narrow powers to the people they appoint, with different procedures and consequences that accompany each available option.
Some of the available legal options include:
- Health Care Surrogate Form: This form designates a surrogate who can provide informed consent for medical treatment as well as surgical and diagnostic procedures if you or your minor child become incapacitated.
- Consent to Temporary or Concurrent Custody: With this document, you can grant temporary custody or concurrent custody of your children to a relative in the event of an emergency (which means that the person temporarily shares custodial rights in a way that doesn’t relinquish your parental rights).
- Designation of a Pre-Need Guardian: This document allows you to choose whom you would like to care for you or your minor child if you ever become incapacitated.
- Petition for Regular or Standby Guardianship: These documents are used to request legal guardianship of a child or to designate, by court order, a future guardian in the event of death or incapacity (without terminating any existing parental or legal rights).
- Adoption: In some cases, the permanent adoption of a child may be the best solution for everyone involved after an emergency upsets existing family arrangements. However, the legal process involved in adoption is very complex, so finding a lawyer who can guide you through the required steps is critical.
The best way to understand which of these options is right for you and your family is to work with an experienced family law firm. Your attorney can gather the facts about your unique situation and assess which scenarios are most likely to meet the needs of your family, then help you plan for those situations with the appropriate legal documents. When you meet with your lawyer, anything you say to him or her in private is completely confidential, so don’t be afraid to honestly discuss your concerns.
When it comes to planning for emergency childcare, it’s important to get started today if you don’t have a plan in place. If an emergency comes up, it’s often too late to prepare the relevant legal documents; they have to be in place before you need them.
The Devolder Law Firm: Your Family Attorneys in New Tampa, Wesley Chapel, and the Tampa Bay Area
The legal team at the Devolder Law Firm understands that nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of your children, which is why we’re ready to work with you to make sure that your emergency child care plan covers every contingency. With experience handling family law, estate planning, and real estate matters, as well as the many ways these areas intersect in the real world, we strive to address all the legal needs facing suburban families so we can become not just your family law attorney, but your family attorney — the trusted partner who’s at your side whenever you need legal advice, guidance, or support.
Need help with a legal matter right now? Call us at 813-724-3880 or fill out our convenient online contact form and we’ll get in touch with you right away to schedule an initial consultation.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.