The definition of family in the United States has evolved greatly over the years. That once-ubiquitous one-size-fits-all model of mom, dad, two-point-five kids no longer represents everyone. (Not that it always did.)
With the changing composition of American families, extended relatives often play integral roles. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and others commonly step in when biological parents can’t. Stepping up to help raise a child can be rewarding, but it also carries uncertainty depending on the circumstances.
Grandparents or relatives looking for greater access to minor children in the family face a vague proposition. We frequently hear from relatives with questions about their custody rights.
When a relative raises a child that isn’t theirs, or significantly participates in the child-rearing process, what rights do they have? Do they have any?
Related Reading: Enforcing a Parenting Plan
What Are My Third-Party Custody Rights?
Generally speaking, both legal parents have equal rights over the child. Unless the court awards one parent greater rights than the other.
For example, let’s say a grandfather watches his grandson while his son is at work. If no court order exists specifically outlining when the child is to spend time with the respective parents, then either parent can take the child from the non-parent on demand. In this case, the child’s mother could show up and take the child.
However, if a current court order allocates specific parenting time, the other parent can’t take the child on demand. In the above situation, if the grandfather watches the grandson during the period the court order grants the son parenting time, the mother can’t take the child at will.
It can be confusing, we know, and lines often blur, which makes knowing your rights even more important.
If there is a court order laying out who has the child, it’s often useful to keep a copy hand. This way, if the child is in a grandparent’s care and one parent tries to pull anything, you can reference the document.
It is, however, possible multiple court orders exist and that they contradict one another. As in most cases, if you have questions, the best course of action includes consulting a family law attorney.
Related Reading: What Can I Do After the Final Judgment?
Third-Party Temporary Power of Attorney
Another common concern involves extended stays while the parents are away. Grandparents often ask what they need do to make sure they have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the child during the parent’s absence.
This situation frequently arises when single parents deploy in the military. It also pops up when parents travel for extended periods of time and leave kids with grandparents.
If you watch a grandchild for an extended period of time, the court can bestow temporary power of attorney. In cases like these, it’s advisable to take this step.
In Oregon, parents can give others the right to take care of their children for up to six months. Granting temporary power of attorney doesn’t forfeit the parent’s rights, but it allows a short-term caretaker to make the necessary decisions to preserve the child’s well being.
Granting temporary power of attorney doesn’t necessarily require court involvement. However, you must understand the implications of giving decision-making power to another person.
The choices that individual makes carry consequences, financial and otherwise. Consult a professional to ensure the document grants appropriate power. Make sure the document addresses the specific, unique circumstances of your situation.
Once a parent grants power of attorney, they can revoke it at any time. The parent has the right to take the child back at any time. If the document doesn’t specify a time frame, power of attorney expires after six months.
These only represent a few facets of grandparents’ rights when it comes to their grandchildren. It’s a broad topic that touches on a variety of subjects and legal areas.
Oregon also has a third-party custody state. This provides for an involved individual to pursue court-ordered visitation or custody. While this frequently applies to grandparents, the law doesn’t limit it to them. This statute applies to other family members or third parties who have a legitimate claim.
Related Reading: Child Custody: The Best Interests of the Child