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Temporary custody by extended family member allows relatives within the third degree by blood or marriage to obtain legal custody of a child. Relatives within the third degree include grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Florida law has been expanded to allow “fictive kin” to seek temporary custody. “Fictive kin” includes non-relatives with whom the child has an emotionally significant relationship that is similar to a family-like relationship. This could include godparents, extended family that is not related within the third degree, or even unrelated persons, so long as the prospective legal custodian can prove an emotionally significant relationship with the child.

Temporary custody cases are often filed so that the de facto caregiver can get legal authority to enroll the child in school, obtain health care, and otherwise act on behalf of the child when a parent is unavailable or unable to responsibly care for the child. Establishing temporary custody ensures the child has access to services necessary for their health, safety, and welfare. Temporary custody cases may prevent DCF from sheltering, or taking emergency custody of, the child. Temporary custody cases could also be used to support Florida residency for in-state tuition. Note that in cases involving abuse, neglect, or abandonment, a prospective legal custodian that does not qualify as a relative within the third degree or as fictive kin may consider pursuing a private dependency petition.

If temporary custody is granted, the court will issue an order authorizing the legal custodian to enroll the child in their school zone, obtain medical care, and otherwise take care of the child’s needs. The legal custodian may, but is not required, to seek court-ordered child support. Temporary custody cases can be stipulated (meaning a parent consents to the custodial arrangement) or contested. If contested, the person seeking custody must prove abuse, neglect, or abandonment before the court can transfer custody over a parent’s objection. Temporary custody cases are not the same as termination of parental rights. A parent always has the right to re-open a temporary custody case and ask the court to restore their custody.

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