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Grandparents Can Exercise Authority When Caring for Grandchildren


Q:  What is a caretaker power of attorney and a caretaker authorization affidavit?
A: 
A caretaker power of attorney (POA) and a caretaker authorization affidavit (CAA) are both documents that allow grandparents to exercise parental authority over their grandchildren who live with them.  However, neither a  POA nor a CAA changes legal custody or child support.  These can be changed only by a court order after certain legal requirements have been met.  Also, the law creating the POA and the CAA does not address health insurance coverage for children.  Rather, coverage is determined by the policy of the particular insurance company.

Q:  What parental authority is given in a POA or CAA?
A:  
Grandparents are authorized to provide care, physical custody, and control of the child, including the ability to enroll the child in school, obtain school information, and consent to school-related matters.  They also may consent to medical, psychological, and dental treatment.  Neither the POA nor the CAA gives grandparents the authority to consent to the marriage or adoption of the child.   

Q:  What is the difference between a POA and a CAA?
A: 
A POA is signed by the parent, guardian, or custodian, who transfers authority to the grandparent.  A POA can only be created in certain circumstances, including when the parent, guardian, or custodian is:  incarcerated, physically or mentally ill, or homeless; being treated for substance abuse; or when the parent, guardian, or custodian believes that that the POA is in the child's best interest.  By contrast, a CAA is not signed by the parent, guardian, or custodian, but, rather, by the grandparent, who assumes authority when the parent, guardian, or custodian is absent after efforts to locate have been unsuccessful.

Q:  What is required for a POA or CAA?
A: 
  The POA or CAA must include particular language and be completed on a specific form as provided in the statute.  The required signatures must be notarized by an Ohio notary.   The POA or CAA must then be filed, within five days after it is notarized, in the juvenile court of the county where the grandparent lives or in another court that has authority over a child, such as a domestic relations or probate court.  Certain other information about the grandparent and the child’s custodial history (“child custody affidavit”) must be filed along with the POA or CAA.  Either the POA or CAA can be sent to the court.  A filing fee is not required.  Once the POA or CAA is filed, no hearing or court approval is necessary.  The court may, however, report to child welfare authorities any information that indicates the grandparent has been convicted of or is responsible for child abuse or neglect, or that the POA or CAA is not otherwise in the child’s best interest.

Q:  How long does a POA or a CAA last?
A:
  Either a POA or a CAA can be terminated at any time by a parent, guardian, or custodian.  The POA or CAA also ends when the child moves from the grandparent's home, when a court orders termination, or when one year has passed.  When a POA or CAA ends, the grandparent must give written notice to the court, the child's school, medical providers, and certain other persons that the POA or CAA is no longer in effect. Notice must be made not later than one week after the date that the power of attorney terminates. After a termination, a second or subsequent POA or CAA can be filed, but a court hearing and approval are necessary to make the documents effective. 

Q:  Can a POA or CAA be created so a child can go to a school in the grandparent’s district?
A: 
Although grandparents can use both a POA and a CAA to handle many school matters, neither document can be created simply to take advantage of athletic or academic programs that are available in the grandparent’s school district.  If a POA or CAA is created for this purpose and not for the purposes outlined in the law, the POA or CAA is void from the start.  Also, a grandparent who creates a POA or CAA for an invalid purpose can be subject to prosecution for falsification, a first-degree misdemeanor. 

3/11/2010

Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association.  This article was prepared by Leah A. Dugan, executive director of human resources for the Hamilton County Juvenile Court in Cincinnati, and updated by attorney Donald H. Webb, also of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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