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Guardianships & Step Parent & Relative Adoptions Attorney
in Detroit, Michigan

The expression, “It takes a village to raise a child”, is true now more than ever. Sadly, the opiate epidemic has created a population of children whose parents are unavailable to provide them with proper care and custody.

Other situations that maybe preclude a parent from providing their child(ren) with care include: incarceration, employment or unemployment, criminality, substance abuse, CPS involvement, schooling, or if the parent is a minor without the ability to provide for their child.

If you are a relative or non-relative who is providing full-time care for a minor, you will need legal authority to make health, school, and legal decisions for the minor. A guardianship will provide you with the legal authority to make sure the child you are caring for is protected.

In Michigan, a minor aged 14 years or older can ask a Court to appoint a guardian. Further, the Court may appoint a guardian if one or more of the following circumstances exist:

  • The parental rights of both parents or the surviving parent are terminated or suspended by prior court order, by judgment of divorce or separate maintenance, by death, by judicial determination of mental incompetency, by disappearance, or by confinement in a place of detention.

  • The parent or parents permit the minor to reside with another person and do not provide the other person with legal authority for the minor's care and maintenance, and the minor is not residing with his or her parent or parents when the petition is filed.

  • All of the following:

    • The minor's biological parents have never been married to one another

    • The minor's parent who has custody of the minor dies or is missing and the other parent has not been granted legal custody under court order, and;

    • The person whom the petition asks to be appointed guardian is related

There Are at Least Two Types of Guardianships in The State of Michigan as It Relates to Minors:

  1. A limited guardianship will usually include a structured parenting plan for the biological mother and father. The parenting plan will require the parents to address the issues that required you to become the guardian in the first place. For example, if the parent requires substance abuse treatment, the plan will spell out the requirement for treatment in order for the guardianship to be terminated. The plan can also specify visitation and child financial support. In these cases, the parent is the person who petitions the Court for the guardianship.

  2. The Court can also appoint a full guardian. Generally, this guardianship has no structured plan for the parents and provides the guardian with full legal-making authority as it pertains to the child. A guardianship petition can be brought into the probate court in the county in which you live. Cannon Law PLC can help you with obtaining a guardianship order to make sure the child you are caring for is not returned to a bad situation. If you have been a guardian for a child for two years or more and the parent has failed to substantially support the minor and/or visit, you may want to consider adoption of the minor. You may be eligible for subsidy support through the State of Michigan.

What Can I Legally Do to Protect My Children During the Covid-19 Pandemic?

If you are a parent 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 children 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 the right person

  • 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.

  • Don’t choose a person who has poor health and/or who might become very sickly if they get the virus

  • Choose a person who you have talked to about this plan, and talk to them about it even before they get sick

  • 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. The fee will be nominal in light of the circumstances.

Let's make sure that your loved ones are in good hands.

Guardian Adoptions

If you have been a child's guardian for a significant amount of time, and it has become clear the parent is not going to attend to their parental duties, you may want to adopt the child(ren).

Children deserve permanency and guardianship does not provide a child with that permanency. With the opioid epidemic, thousands of relatives and family friends have stepped up to the plate to become the guardians of children who need a loving and healthy home. If a parent has abandoned their child, having not meaningfully visited and/or supported their child, call Cannon Law PLC to discuss whether or not adoption is an option.

In some cases, you may decide to seek a stipend through the State of Michigan if you are seeking to adopt. Since this type of adoption involves terminating the parental rights of the biological parents, Cannon Law PLC has the specialized experience to handle these cases.

Step-Parent Adoptions

In Michigan a step-parent may adopt their step-child if the parent of the child is divorced from the biological parent or the child's custodial parent was not married to the father but he acknowledged paternity or is a putative father (biological but not legal father). In order for the step-parent to petition the Court for adoption, they must be married to the custodial parent.

Courts have what is referred to as an ADOPTION DIVISION. The Adoption department in the respective Court house has a number of forms they require. A petition requesting termination of the biological parent's rights is necessary as well. If the biological parent agrees to the step-parent adopting the child, things can go rather smoothly. Usually problems arise when the biological parent objects to the adoption.

If the biological parent objects to the termination, a hearing is held. At the hearing the Court has to determine the following in-part:

  1. The other parent, having the ability to support, or assist in supporting, the child, has failed or neglected to provide regular and substantial support for the child or if a support order has been entered, has failed to substantially comply with the order, for a period of 2 years or more before the filing of the petition. A child support order stating that support is $0.00 or that support is reserved shall be treated in the same manner as if no support order has been entered.

  2. The other parent, having the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the child, has regularly and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of 2 years or more before the filing of the petition.

Cannon Law PLC has experience dealing with the various Adoption Units throughout the Metro-Detroit area and can help you through the process of becoming a legal parent for a child you already treat like your own. These are usually Sonia's favorite cases.