If you relinquish in custody, don’t just get it in writing. Get a court order.
If a crisis befalls you or your family and it is necessary to give up custody of your children for a short time, don’t settle for a flimsy written agreement between you and the person to whom you give the children. Too often, parents sign a notarized agreement with a relative or a friend, indicating that they’re transferring custody of the children on a temporary basis and that they will be entitled to take the children back at some point in the future. As we discussed in yesterday’s blog, such deals are not foolproof, and you should hesitate before you make such an arrangement.
If you find that you must relinquish custody for a period of time, don’t settle for a notarized agreement. Ask an attorney to assist you in preparing a “Stipulation” or a “Consent Order” that specifically lays out the reasons for the temporary transfer of custody. The document should further specify when the temporary custody arrangement will expire, and should clearly declare that the children shall be returned to the custodial parent. In the Stipulation or Consent Order, the temporary caregiver should agree that he or she will make no attempt to challenge the permanent custody rights of the original custodial parent and will neither fight nor delay the return of the children to the biological parent when the temporary arrangement lapses.
Once a proper legal document is signed, it should be filed with the Court. A Stipulation can be accompanied by a court order to be signed by the judge. A Consent Order is itself a court order with lines for signatures by the parties involved and by the judge. Once a judge signs the document, it becomes a court order, and a person who fails to abide by it is technically in contempt of court.
Voluntarily giving up custody for personal reasons is an unusual circumstance, and one that should be approached with great reluctance. But if you have to do it, do it right. Consult an attorney, prepare a stipulation or consent order, obtain the written consent of all persons or parties concerned and file it in court. Doing so will be your best protection for regaining custody when circumstances change for the better.