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Power of Attorney for Child Care

You fought hard to gain custody of your children. But what happens if you won't be able to care for them for an extended period of time? If you're going to be separated from your children due to business travel or military deployment, or if you're facing months or years of rehab treatment or incarceration, you may need someone to make some important decisions while caring for your children. But how do you make that happen without ceding custody?

A power of attorney can give a trusted friend or relative authority to make such decisions in your absence. So how do these powers work, and what are their limits?

Do's and Don'ts

While a power of attorney can authorize someone to make decisions for your child on his or her -- or your -- behalf, that authority is not unlimited. A power of attorney generally allows someone, known as your "agent," to make:

  • Health Care Decisions: If your child needs medical attention or specific procedures, your agent can provide informed consent;
  • Education Decisions: Your agent can help set school course loads, class schedules, and, in some cases, enroll your child in extracurricular activities and sports; and
  • Financial Decisions: If your child has bank accounts or other assets, you may grant your agent access.

But a power of attorney cannot:

  • Grant your agent full custody of the child;
  • Allow your agent to transfer custody to another person;
  • Allow your agent to make major life decisions like allowing your child to quit school, join the military, or get married.

Nuts and Bolts

Child care powers of attorney will be governed by your state, and the rules can vary depending on where you live. Some states may limit to whom you can grant powers of attorney, whether the power of attorney must be filed with a court, whether you must notify the child's other parent, and how long a power of attorney can remain in effect. And you may reserve the right to revoke the power of attorney in the document, and revocation may need to be done in writing.

You should check your state's website for power of attorney regulations or, better yet, contact an experienced family law attorney for help.

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