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Can An Extended Family Member Seek Temporary Child Custody In Fort Lauderdale?

An extended family member such as a relative in the third degree by blood or marriage to the parent of a stepparent of a child currently married to a parent may have a lawyer file an action under Florida law to seek temporary custody of a minor child in Broward. This is intended to provide a legal means for a statutorily defined family member to acquire the necessary legal documentation to permit them to provide for the minor child under for whom they are caring for by allowing them to consent to medical treatment, to obtain copies of school records and to enroll the minor child in school.

In a recent case from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Mohorn v Thomas, the grandmother appealed an order entered by Broward marital and family Judge Marina Garcia-Wood. The trial court denied her petition for temporary custody. Judge Garcia-Wood found that the father’s name on the birth certificate was insufficient to establish paternity and that the father was required to file a paternity action to establish or ratify paternity before temporary custody of an extended family member could be sought by an extended family member.

The minor child’s birth certificate listed Sylenia Danielle Thomas as the mother and Ronnie Kennedy as the father. One year after the minor child was born, the mother and father executed a document that gave all rights and legal guardianship of the minor child to the paternal grandparents.

In reversing the decision of the trial court, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held that trial court erred in requiring the father to file a paternity action before it could make a ruling on an extended family member’s petition for temporary custody of the minor child. The court found that the establishment of paternity was sufficient to render the father a parent and the paternal grandparents extended family members under Florida Statute Chapter 751.

Here, the father signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity at the hospital when the minor child was born. When the father signed the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, he was advised of the consequences of signing this document and the mother signed the document as well. Additionally, the father again acknowledged paternity when him and the mother signed an additional document giving all of the rights and legal guardianship to the paternal grandparents.