Occasionally a minor child will end up living with someone else besides his or her parents. This could be temporary, semi-permanent, or permanent. Perhaps the parent is in the military and was called to active duty so the child goes to live with a grandparent. Maybe the parents have a health or substance abuse issues and an aunt/uncle take charge of the child. Or perhaps a child chooses to live with a relative so that they may attend a specific school.
In situations such as those it used to be that in order for the caregiver to have the authority they needed to deal with health care providers, medications, and the school systems, a guardianship was needed. This process was costly, time consuming, and actually replaced the parent’s rights to make decisions for their children during the time that the guardianship remained in effect. A trip to the Probate Court was needed to initiate and terminate the process.
Currently there is a new law which allows a parent to give a caregiver (the person the child is living with) concurrent authority to make educational and health care decisions for the minor child. The Act Relative To Caregiver Education and Health Care Authorization allows a parent to authorize a person with whom their child is residing to “exercise concurrently the rights and responsibilities, except as prohibited by the parent, that the parent possesses relative to the education and health care of the minor children.”
The parents can specify any actions that the caregiver is not allowed to take, and the parents continue to retain their authority to take any and all actions related to their children’s health care and education. The form only needs to be signed by one parent so it can be used to grant limited powers to “step-parents” who are primarily available during school hours and/or who take the children to their medical appointments. This is a wonderful news for blended families with minor children. The parent’s decision supersedes the caregiver’s decision if there are any disputes. The caregiver signs an acknowledgment that they will not knowingly make any decision that conflicts with the decision of the child’s parent or other legal guardian.
The document remains in effect until the date specified by the parent, not to exceed 2 years and the powers can be changed or amended at any time by the parent. The document should be provided to the child’s school and health care providers.
This new law will go a long way to help those families who need some assistance in caring for their children, without needing a costly and inconvenient visit to the probate court.