8

I have a friend that just described her situation and I'm lost. Hopefully someone here can help me out. I'm a programmer so I'm using variables instead of names :)

  • A = my friend
  • B = her friend (female)
  • C & D = her friend's children
  • E & F = her friend's children's respective fathers

and the situation:

  • B is in the hospital on life support likely to die (malpractice suit in progress)
  • A is the god-mother of C & D
  • A is unmarried without room for the children but will change her environment if needed to qualify for custody
  • E has given up all rights as a father
  • F is a drug addict and shouldn't raise a child (subjective but true)

My question is this: What legal options does A have for obtaining custody of C & D?

2
  • 4
    This is also highly dependent on the country. But in any case, a lawyer is the right way to go. Jun 23 '11 at 9:07
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is a legal question that requires a lawyer. As per the help center, we don't do legal questions here.
    – Becuzz
    Jul 26 '17 at 12:02
19

Disclaimer .. IANAL, and A needs a lawyer.

I don't think there are inherent legal rights conferred by being a "god-parent".

However ... the real answer is it depends who is contesting. If no one contests, the court will award A custody. It will initially temporary, and she will need to petition for adoption after all is settled.

Relevant Issues:

  • What sort of legal provisions were made by B?
  • The ages of the children and their wishes and concerns.
  • Are there any other relatives of B or E&F around?
  • How big is the malpractice settlement going to be?
  • Is there any clear indications available that B intended for A to raise the kids.
  • Did E renounce paternity rights through a legal process?

Absent other relatives, B has a reasonable shot to get the C (the child of E), because E no longer has parental rights. It will be far harder to get D (the child of F), particularly if F gets an eye on the malpractice jackpot. The courts will search out F, and he will get the benefit of the doubt.

My advice to A ...

  1. GET A LAWYER.
  2. Get the court to appoint the kids their own legal guardian(s) for the process.
  3. Work with the court appointed guardian/s and be clear that the kids are all that matters to you.
  4. Push to get trusts setup for the kids in the event they come into money through the litigation. The guardian/s should be able to do this.
  5. In case I wasn't clear enough ... GET A LAWYER.
5
  • I don't know answers to all the questions you posed right now but you've given good info. I'll give it a few days for responses before accepting an answer but this is a good one. Thanks for the response.
    – rennat
    Jun 23 '11 at 6:20
  • 3
    I agree with tomjedrz. If she hasn't obtained a lawyer yet she's wasting valuable time. Whenever ANYTHING has to do with kids & custody, always ALWAYS ALWAYS get a lawyer and get it written up.
    – Darwy
    Jun 23 '11 at 6:52
  • 2
    @rennat: And if the lawyer doesn't ask the above questions: Go to another one. :-) Jun 23 '11 at 9:08
  • Agreed, custodial issues without a will in place always requires a lawyer. If that has not started now, then you are wasting time.
    – MichaelF
    Jun 23 '11 at 12:27
  • 2
    Also, beyond being named a godparent. "A" would probably have to show her acting as a godparent. The more involvement in the daily life of the children the better. Jul 18 '11 at 15:22
8

Adding to tomjedrz...

Things to consider:

  • Who currently has physical custody of the children? If it is A, make it official with the authorities, such as a family court or child protective services. If not we will need more information.
  • What sort of documents are available to assert B's intentions? Find letters, emails, baptismal records, power of attorney as relates to medical decisions, and any others.
  • In addition to the fathers, what about grandparents of C & D: there should be six to choose from if still living.
  • What about siblings of B?
  • Does A want custody of the children or does A want to fulfill her commitments to B or does A want what's best for the children? This can be difficult to work through.
  • If being a godparent was part of a church ceremony approach the church for help.
  • Obtaining legal custody of children is often difficult and painful in the courts, in addition to the difficulty of actually taking children into your life unexpectedly. A may work through all of this and at the end find she can not accommodate the result.
  • What do the children want?

If A cannot afford a lawyer, especially as she may be taking on the needs of the children, seek out and obtain legal advice from charitable legal services. Sometimes called legal assistance or pro bono. Find a list of free service providers here from the American Bar Association.

3

I will answer what I know as a foster parent in the U.S.

In the situation you describe, the children would probably be in foster care. This is one of the "scenarios" we had to deal with during our training.

The good news is, if that's true then A has got a great place to start. She should work with DCF in that area. She should reach out to them and let them know. DCF would be more then willing to place the children with A if they can (we will address that in a moment).

If the children are with F has custody, then the first step is to get the children into Foster care, and away from the bad parent.

Based on your tags I am going to continue as if the children are in Foster care.

  1. Reach out to the "Case Manager" and let them know you were friends of A and the childrens god parents. They will be thrilled.
  2. Be prepared to do a "home study". The case worker will stop by and make sure that you have what you need, things like enough room, the ability to care for children (money), and general safety (no chain saws on the living room floor).
  3. Next will be transitioning the children from their foster parents to you. This needs to be a smooth process so be prepared for it to take a while. The children have already been traumatized once by "loosing" their mother. So take your time with the transition and focus on making it a smooth process for them. Start with visits and then nights over and finally "moving in". The case worker will know how to proceed. Don't be afraid to reach out to the foster parents and ask for help. Almost all will be more then happy to help.
  4. With the kids in your custody, then prepare for adoption. The process is long. About a year. You will have frequent home inspections, and lots of different "case workers" in and out of your home. Around here there are about 6 different workers that come in and out of the home during the adoption phase. Try to work with each one of them. If they suggest classes take them. A lot of the classes help with how to work with the system. Others focus on working with the needs of children that have been through trauma (these children have).
  5. Make sure to hire an adoption lawyer. Then finalize everything. This will likely be a couple of years after the kids move in. It's a process, but it's designed to make sure that the kids are safe and secure and not moved around all the time.

There are a few things to note. IANAL I am a foster parent, you need a lawyer. Make sure to get one as soon as you can. A should reach out the case worker ASAP. Even though she can't take the children right now, if the case worker knows that she is trying to get things together, there is often funding to help speed that process up, and more importantly the current foster parents can be told, and the children prepared. Entering foster care is always traumatic. There's not much that can be done about that. You yanked away from every one and every thing you have every known and thrown into some strangers house. One of the best quotes from class was "Don't take candy from strangers, just move in with them." On the exit side though it doesn't have to be that traumatic. It will be emotional, but if the children and the foster parents know, then trauma can be avoided. just taking the kids from their current foster home with no warning is usually more traumatic then the first time around because it just re-enforces the "can't count on anyone" feelings.

As for E, not a problem. Once given up, getting parental rights back is near impossible (this will depend on local laws).

F could be an issue, you will have to prove that he is an unfit parent. That could be a very hard thing to do. Even in foster care, we would try to reach out to F and make them a better parent (get them off the drugs) instead of ruling them out completely. A should be willing to work with F. If not this may get messy.

And if A has a trump card (a living will stating the mothers intentions) PLAY IT NOW! Get it on file with the courts and make it known to everyone. That could make a huge difference.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.