You and your spouse decide to take a two-week cruise for your anniversary, leaving your minor children in the care of their grandparents. What happens if one of your children becomes ill or injured while you are gone? While doctors certainly will not withhold emergency medical treatment from your child, they may be reluctant to provide non-emergency care without a legal guardian’s consent. How could you have avoided a delay in your child’s care?
Alabama Law on Delegation of Powers by a Parent or Guardian
Alabama allows a parent of a minor child (or an incapacitated person) to temporarily delegate certain parental powers to another person via a “properly executed power of attorney.” Such a power of attorney may delegate powers regarding health, support, education, or maintenance of a child. The delegation can last no longer than a year and has a few exceptions: a parent cannot delegate the power to consent to the child’s marriage or adoption, and a parent cannot use a power of attorney to give up his or her primary responsibility for the minor. In other words, the parent keeps his ability to make decisions for the child and maintains custody of the child.
What Happens if I Don’t Execute a Power of Attorney to Delegate Parental Powers While I’m Unavailable?
Without a legal guardian available to provide consent for treatment, medical providers may be reluctant to provide care in non-emergency situations. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends in its Policy Statement for the Consent of Emergency Medical Services for Children and Adolescents that:
“Unless a minor is allowed to consent under the law, health care professionals should consider delaying all non-urgent diagnostic and treatment decisions until the parent or legal guardian can be reached for informed permission or consent.”
This means that unless a situation is life-threatening, doctors may delay treatment until the child’s parent becomes available. That’s why a power of attorney can be helpful – it allows a trusted relative or friend to stand in the parent’s place and give consent for medical treatment when the parent is unavailable due to travel, illness, military deployment, or for any other reason.
But powers of attorney for minor children can be helpful in situations other than medical care as well.
Imagine that while you are out of town your child’s class wants to take a field trip. Even though you are unavailable to sign the permission slip, an appropriate power of attorney could give your child’s temporary caregiver the power to sign it in your place.
Do I Need An Attorney to Prepare a Power of Attorney?
While you could try to formulate your own power of attorney document, it’s generally a good idea to have an attorney guide you through the process to make sure that your delegation meets statutory requirements and is properly executed.
If you want to worry less about your child while you are gone on vacation, contact the attorneys at Lewis, Lewis & Falkner to discuss a Power of Attorney for your minor child. We can quickly and inexpensively prepare a Power of Attorney to give you peace of mind.
We are available by phone at 205-553-5353, or stop by our office in downtown Tuscaloosa at 2224 15th Street.