Grandparents’ and Third Party Rights in Arizona
Circumstances often arise requiring someone other than a legal parent to care for a minor child or children. Grandparents are often required by circumstances to care for their grandchildren. Aunts and uncles often care for their nieces and nephews, and sometimes family friends are required to step in to care for friends’ children or children’s friends. Without the proper court orders, a third party caring for a minor child lacks the authority to consent to medical care, enroll the child/children in school, or apply for benefits on their behalf.
In Arizona, there are a number of different mechanisms for grandparents, relatives, or other third parties to gain placement and legal decision-making authority (formerly called custody) over a minor child. Depending on which route you choose, you may have to file in a different court, and different legal standards apply. In this post, I will discuss the simplest methods for obtaining third-party custodial rights: Signing a Power of Attorney, and Title 14 Guardianship. In a later post, I will outline Arizona’s In Loco Parentis statute, and discuss filing a Juvenile Dependency case.
Power of Attorney – The simplest way for a parent to grant a third party the ability to consent to medical care and enroll a child in school is by executing a valid power of attorney. The Power of attorney form must comply with A.R.S. §14-5104, must explicitly lay out the custodial rights being conveyed, which cannot include the right to consent to marriage or adoption, and most importantly expires after six months.A parent’s signature on a power of attorney must be notarized to be valid, and a power of attorney is revocable at any time through another notarized statement.
A valid power of attorney is a helpful temporary means of conveying custodial rights in the short term, but does not do much good if a third-party is attempting to protect a child from abuse or neglect, or if a parent is not on board with third party custody.
Title 14 Guardianship – Unlike a power of attorney, a Title 14 Guardianship does not expire. However, there are several important factors for a third party to consider before filing for a Title 14 Guardianship.
- A Title 14 Guardianship requires the consent of the parents, or if the parents are not available to consent that the parents be served with the Petition and not object.
- Prior to a Title 14 Guardianship being ordered, the proposed guardian is required to complete several fiduciary trainings online
- After a Title 14 Guardianship has been entered, a parent can revoke the guardianship at any time by filing the proper documents with the Probate Court. After a parent has filed to revoke consent for the guardianship, the Probate Court will set the matter for a hearing, and the guardianship will be dismissed. Even if the guardianship is in the best interest of the minor child/children, the Probate Court has no power to keep a guardianship open once a parent has withdrawn consent.
- Title 14 guardians must file an annual guardianship report with the Probate Court, updating the court on the status of the minor child/children who is/are subject of the guardianship.
Title 14 Guardianship is a good option in situations where the parents consent, or where there are no legal parents able to care for a child. Probate self-service forms are available at https://www.sc.pima.gov/
If you have any further questions, or need help with the process, please call our office at (520) 327-1409 to schedule a consultation.