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.
Unlike a power of attorney, a Title 14 Guardianship does not expire. However, there are several important factors for the third party like grandparents to consider before filing for a Title 14 Guardianship to obtain rights.
Title 14 Guardianship is a good option in situations where the parent's 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/
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