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[ANON POST] Parents Voluntarily Transferring Custody of One Child
Inara
orange_fell wrote in little_details
Setting: Generic contemporary America (with magic!)

Searched so far: Googled "child custody," "give up custody," "transfer custody," etc. I got a lot of promising looking results, but a lot of them were just citations of legal code, which doesn't really help me with my exact scenario and, frankly, was kind of over my head. I read the Wikipedia articles on custody and guardianship, which, again, weren't exactly what I was looking for. I also found these two (http://little-details.livejournal.com/2770369.html)posts (http://little-details.livejournal.com/2658742.html) on this community, which are also close, but not perfect, as they mostly deal with teens.

Situation: Main character A is the oldest of five children, whom I'll call A (27 years old), B (20), C (17), D (15), and E (12). The parents basically threw A out of the house when she was 17 because they considered her a bad influence on her brothers and sisters (she has magic in a world where it's considered evil). She managed to get her life together and has a home, job, and friends. Now, E is showing the same tendencies, and the parents want him gone as well.

Question: I'm wondering what sort of legal wrangling would be required or helpful to transfer custody of E to A. A lives in a different city, but the same state, so E will have to switch schools, and A will probably have to prove that she is his legal guardian. Will a power of attorney suffice? Would the whole group or some combination eventually have to appear before a family court judge? Would A have to get some sort of foster-parent certification?

If it makes a difference, I would like for E to be dropped in A's lap kind of suddenly. If their father is a lawyer, would it make sense for him to show up with E and say "Sign this... now he's your problem?" A is quite willing and able to take care of her brother.

Thank you in advance for any information! I hope I can make my story at least believable!

If you want real-world information, it will help if you clarify what state your story is set in. I can add the information to the main post for you.

Your story is not set in the real world, however, so you should think about what implications that will have on the situation. A and E have magic and apparently that's bad--is discrimination against magical people legal? Is having magic potentially something they could hide? Would the state rather give custody of a magical minor to a magical adult, or spend its own resources supporting said magical minor in the foster system until the age of 18?

Edited at 2014-04-29 01:43 am (UTC)

OP here! Thank you for replying so quickly!

I don't have a particular state in mind, really, though as a New Englander I kind of default to the Northeast. I'm also flexible based on what would be best for the story... is there a state that's particularly liberal, where A could just send E off to school and there wouldn't be too many questions?

Magic has a big stigma; the parents definitely don't want anyone to know that their family is unusual in any way, and A and E will be very discreet, as well. None of them want the state or the neighbors to find out there's magic in the family.

The McKinney-Vento act may be helpful here - if E is somehow designated as a runaway or in an unstable housing situation, there are significantly more protections (E *has to* be admitted to school immediately and they'll take care of the paperwork later, for instance).

Just saying, totally giving up on raising 2 of your 5 children, the second one while still a preteen, has a big stigma too . . . People would talk, and might suspect something was up.

Not necessarily, depending where you live. If you quietly put about rumours that they were gay or otherwise irredeemably sinful, people may well support you in dumping them. This happened to my best friend in high school and she had to come and live with my family for the last year of high school. Later, her youngest brother was also kicked out at 14. A lot of people thought this was terrible, but they had the full support of their church, relatives and friends.

Well, that was my point: if they're at all involved in their community, in order to throw out their two kids, they have to come up with reasons that their church, relatives, and friends will accept. People will be talking about them and their repeated ordeal with kids who are violent, drugged out, gay, whatever. Having the Child E go live with Child A could even undermine their cover story about A: "She's an unstable crackhead and finally we couldn't help her anymore! . . . but then we gave her legal custody of her 12 year old brother."

OP here!

Yes to all these things! I have big plans for vicious rumors, and I like the phrase "irredeemably sinful." There will definitely be problems and gossip for the parents and siblings at home, and for A and E.

I think the cover story about A will probably be some kind of tough love: "we had to tell her that if she couldn't behave, she had to leave, and she left," but it's been ten years by the time the story starts, and she's really "turned her life around." Maybe if we give her this other "problem child," she'll set a good example?

Also, there will have been some very public trouble for E at school, so moving him to a different school might be seen as giving him another chance.

Social work PhD student doing a dissertation on adult siblings taking custody of minor siblings, here.

This varies somewhat from state to state, but in all cases should be do-able without a ton of fuss.

What might work if you want it to work is, if the parents are kicking out E (either into a voluntary foster placement or because they've decided he's beyond their lawful control and thus a "person in need of supervision") and E remembers A as being good people is for E to go into state custody and then mention A as a possible person to go and live with. Legally speaking, a "suitable" or "fit and willing" relative who is at least 21 years old would have priority over any other person to take custody in a foster care situation.

This could result in an out of the blue sudden lap-drop of E to A. Many states will on an emergency basis allow a relative (however they define relative, but this will almost always include siblings who are at least 21) to either receive an expedited approval or have the approval completed after the minor has already moved in.

OP here! Thank you, this is excellent information! The last bit has given me a whole host of new ideas, which come with new questions!

Am I right to imagine that having the approval completed after he's gone to live with her would mean that she would basically have to prove that she can support him, which won't be a problem, probably a background check, and some sort of home inspection? After that, would Social Services be checking up on them?

Since I'd like to keep it kind of in the family (they want the state to know as little as possible) would it be reasonable for A to suddenly inform Social Services that her parents abandoned E at her house and she'd like to take custody of him? He would certainly rather live with her than stay at home.

Also, would this have repercussions for the other children living at home? I think I'd be pretty suspicious if someone just unloaded their youngest child on a relative.

Again, thank you!

Yes, A will have a background check as you mention, but if she's employed and doesn't live in a Hoarders-style mess with drug dealers, she should be fine. Since she's a relative, they're unlikely to check again unless there's any specific reason to.

As for the original family, you can decide for yourself. If they're in the same city/county, they may get a child welfare check on the two underage kids. If not, it will probably go in the too-hard basket and no check will be done.

Thank you very much! This gives me lots to work with!

I'll defer to Cheshire on the legalities, but in my experience, much of this could also be done informally.

If all the adults are agreed, there may be no reason to involve the state at all in a custody transfer, if such isn't desired.
It would be the equivalent of parents sending a teen to their uncle's to work the ranch for the summer. Not unheard of, not illegal, and not required to tell authorities. If they end up staying for awhile, there shouldn't be any particular legal issue, although there may be some enrollment headaches if the registrar is particularly mean-spirited.

This is what I was thinking. Why involve the state at all? He's going to live with his adult sister "for awhile."

Thank you both! As long as that doesn't sound unreasonable, and she'll be able to send him to school, it works for me!

I don't have any information-- I just want to say, I would like to read this, whenever it is done!

Thank you!

Seconded. I really want to see what you do with this!

Thank you, too! If this gets off the ground, I'll see about posting it somewhere. (All my writing so far has been mostly for me.)