WHAT CAN I LEGALLY DO TO PROTECT MY CHILDREN DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
If you are a parent(s) of minor child(ren) there is no doubt that the COVID-19 / Coronavirus has you worried about your children. While you are busy providing them with daily care in the form of food and education, I’m sure there are some of you who have thought, what will happen to my children if I get the virus? Every parent should have a safety plan in place for your child(ren) should you become to ill to personally care for them. While Child Protective Services will not want to remove your children because you become hospitalized, if your children are left in the community without proper care and custody (including a legal provision to care for them) CPS could become involved.
In Michigan, a parent(s) or guardian may delegate their parental duties to another person for a period not exceeding 180 days. The person they delegate the powers can make decisions regarding the child’s care, custody or property except they cannot consent to the marriage of the child and/or have the child adopted or released for adoption. There is specific language and directives that can be used to delegate parental powers. If you are a guardian and you delegate parental powers to a third party, notice of the delegation must be given to the court within 7 days. Conceptually, the delegation of parental powers is very similar to what people refer to as a power of attorney. However, in Michigan there is a specific law that provides for the ability to give someone this right.
You should not delegate your parental powers to a person unless you really need to. If you are not sick and don’t have the symptoms of the virus, you probably don’t need to execute the delegation. If you and another parent have joint legal custody, both of you will need to execute the delegation of parental powers. Here are some tips on choosing the right person to delegate your parental authorities to:
- Choose someone who you have known for years and trust more than anyone.
- Preferably the person should not have a criminal record and/or be on the State of Michigan Child Abuse registry. You should not delegate your powers to a person convicted of child abuse or who is on the registry for an assault or sexual abuse of a minor. This is particularly important because the last thing you need is someone who Child Protective Services would remove your children from.
- Choose a person who knows your child(ren) and who cares about your child. You should pick someone who is invested in your children's lives.
- Don’t choose a person who has poor health and/or who might become more compromised if the virus.
- Choose a person who you have talked to about this plan, and talk to them about it even before anyone becomes ill. Have the person's information available in an obvious place in your home.
- If possible, make sure the person you delegate authority to is not at risk of becoming homeless or has a history of homelessness. Ideally, you should pick someone who can make good financial decisions.
- Make plans in case you get sick
- Write out detailed instructions for the caretaker of your child. Remember the person is not going to be watching your children while you are out at the movies, they need detailed information. Provide names and numbers of doctors and other important service providers
- Have medications labeled and organized and ready to go in case you become unavailable
The delegation of parental powers authority is obviously an emergency act that no parent will want to take. Hopefully, you will not need to do so. On a non-emergency basis you may want to consider a will or trust. Although Cannon Law PLC does not handle those matters, we are happy to refer you to a reasonable attorney in your area. If you need a Delegation of Parental Powers or want to have the form handy during the COVID-19 outbreak, please contact our office.