Temporarily delegating your parental authority

Imagine you’re headed off with your spouse for a weeklong vacation in Europe or the Caribbean. You can’t even remember the last time you and your spouse had some adult time away from the kids, and you’ve never left them for this long before. You know they’re in good hands with your good friends.

But even when you leave your kids with people you trust, things can come up that only a parent is permitted to handle. Say, for example, your daughter has a doctor or dentist appointment, and it turns out a minor medical decision needs to be made, but you’re out of reach and your friend doesn’t have the legal authority to make the decision for you. Or your kid ends up in the emergency room, but they won’t let your friend in the room because she’s not the child’s parent or guardian. What then?

Most states will allow you to “temporarily delegate parental authority” if you go on vacation, if you leave town for work or if you’re deployed by the military. You create a document, usually a form available on your state or county’s website, where you designate a particular person as a “temporary agent” to step into your shoes for a certain period of time.

Typically you can give that person general authority to make decisions on your child’s behalf, including medical, educational or financial decisions (though a lot of states won’t allow a temporary agent to agree to let your child marry or be adopted) or you can limit it to specific powers.

In most states, the form for temporarily delegating parental powers looks fairly straightforward, but there could be hidden traps for the unwary. If you’re thinking of appointing a temporary agent, it would be a good idea to have a family attorney assist you.

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