San Antonio Express-News MySA.com Copyright 2011, Paul Premack
January 05, 2011
Make Minor Grandson’s legal decisions?
Dear Mr. Premack: My daughter is a single mother. Her son is
eleven. To keep her job, she has to transfer to another city for a year.
She is willing to leave her son with us for the year so he won’t be
uprooted. Do we need to take any legal action to be his guardians, or do
something so that we’ll be the ones who can enroll him in school? What if
he needs medical attention during the year? How are we recognized as
having say-so instead of his mother? – RD
There are ways for you
to gain temporary legal authority regarding your grandson. However, the
first legal issue revolves around the definition of “single parent”. Is
your daughter divorced from his father? Is he deceased? Is there no father
of record? When a court has granted the father certain custodial rights,
the court’s order must be honored or amended by the court.
relatively new Texas law allows your daughter to grant you legal authority
over her child in a written document that meets certain strict legal
standards. However, if there is a court proceeding already in place (like
a divorce decree specifying the father’s rights) then the court must
approve the authorization agreement before it is effective.
there is NO court proceeding already in place (because her husband is
deceased or there was no father of record) then the authorization
agreement is privately handled without court approval. Your daughter
wants to appoint you, the grandparent, as the authorized party. That is
fortunate, since the law states that the authorization agreement can only
be between the parent and either a) a grandparent, b) an adult sibling, or
c) and adult aunt or uncle. She could not, for instance, use the agreement
to give authorization to her best friend.
The agreement can
assign to you some very specific and very broad powers. You can be
Make your grandson’s medical, dental or psychological decisions (but, for
a female grandchild, the law forbids you to be involved in birth control
decisions); - Obtain
and maintain his health insurance and automobile insurance (if he was old
enough to drive); -
Enroll him in day-care or in public or private school, and allow him to
participate in extracurricular and athletic activities; -
Give him permission to obtain a learner’s permit, driver’s license, or
state-issued identification card if he was old enough to drive); -
Allow him to get a job; and -
Apply for and receive public benefits for him, if he qualifies.
You should consult with a Certified Elder Law or Family Law attorney about
preparing the authorization agreement. If there is no court involved, you
can review the questionnaire for the “parental authorization” document at
the Virtual Online Law Office on Premack.com for more details. The
agreement must among other things, include a) a specific warning and
disclosure, b) a statement that the parent may terminate the authorization
agreement and resume custody, possession, care, and control of the child
on demand. Your daughter may, at any time, change her mind, revoke the
agreement, and regain legal control over her son.
Disclaimer: This column answers a specific
legal question asked by an individual in Texas. The answer may or may
not match your individual situation. Be careful not to treat this
column as specific legal advice, as it may not meet your individual
needs. It may give you a solid basis for discussion with your own
You should consult with your personal
attorney before you take any action on this or any legal issue.
Also, please be aware that laws change, so this column is valid only
as of the date it was published. This communication does not create an
attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
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Paul Premack is Certified as an Elder Law
Attorney ( CELA ) by the National Elder Law Foundation as accredited by
the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and tthe ABA. He is licensed to pracice law in Texas.
Benjamin Premack holds a JD and a Masters Degree in International
Affairs, and is licensed to practice law in Washington State and in