Filing for Temporary Custody in Florida
What is a temporary custody agreement? A temporary custody agreement allows extended family members to have temporary custody of a minor child, either with the parent’s consent or, if the parent objects, upon a showing that they have abused, abandoned, or neglected the child. Florida Statutes define “extended family members” as relatives within the third degree by blood or marriage (e.g.: first cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, great-grandparents, etc.) and also include stepparents who are married to the parent and who also have no pending litigation against that parent. § 751.011(2)(a).
If you’re an extended family member seeking a temporary custody agreement, you will need to file a Petition for Temporary Custody, following the procedures in Florida Statute Section 751.03. This Petition must include a list of statements providing the biographical information of each party, as well as any other information that the Court will need to consider before entering an order. Sign and notarize the Petition, then file the original with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you live. You will also need to file: a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit, a Notice of Related Cases, a Family Court Cover Sheet, and a Non-military Affidavit. Be sure to keep copies for your records. The clerk will charge you a filing fee; if you cannot afford it, you may file an application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status to try and have the fees deferred.
Your Petition will soon be assigned a case number and a Judge. If the parents have neither waived service nor consented, you will need to serve them with a copy of each document that you have filed. They will have twenty (20) days to file a response. If they fail to respond, you may file a Motion for Default with the clerk of court and set the case for a final hearing. The parents have a right to be present at the hearing, so you must serve them with a Notice of Hearing so that they have an opportunity to attend. If the parent approves or fails to attend, the Court will enter an Order granting your Petition and establishing temporary custody. If they object, you must file a Notice for Trial, where the Judge will hear both sides and make the decision that they feel is in the child’s best interest.
The Florida Supreme Court has written an excellent guide to drafting and filing your own Petition for Temporary Custody, which can be found here. The guide takes you through each document that needs to be filed, provides template forms, and cites to the legal authority underpinning everything. As always, it’s recommended that you seek the counsel of a qualified attorney before proceeding.