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Kinship Caregivers - Voluntary Transfer of Custody
What is Voluntary Transfer of Custody?
A Voluntary transfer of custody is a court proceeding during which a parent or parents voluntarily transfer legal custody of a child to any responsible adult so that a child may receive adequate care and treatment.
When should a Voluntary Transfer of Custody be used?
If a parent is going to be absent or unable to care for a child for a long period of time, a Voluntary Transfer of Custody may be appropriate. It is also used when the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has received a report of abuse or neglect and they determine that a transfer to another responsible adult would be appropriate rather than filing a child abuse petition against the offending parent.
How do I start the process to get an order for Voluntary Transfer of Custody?
A written petition has to be filed in the court that does juvenile cases where the parents or you live. At least one of the parents has to sign the petition. You will sign an affidavit attached to the petition saying you are willing to take custody of the child. After you give the clerk of court the petition, the court will notify every one of the hearing date.
Do both parents have to sign the petition?
If a parent is not joining in the petition, the reasons have to be in the petition. If a parent can't be located, the court may appoint someone, called a curator, to try to find them.
Will the court appoint a lawyer for anyone?
The court can appoint a lawyer for the parents and/or the child. If DCFS is involved in the case, then the parents and child have a right to have a lawyer appointed for them. Some courts always appoint an attorney for the child. It is that attorney's job to represent the wishes of the child.
Do I need a lawyer for this process?
A lawyer may be helpful. However, most courts have petition forms available to complete and most people are able to complete the process on their own.
What will happen at the hearing?
The judge will review the petition. The judge may ask questions of any parent that is present and you. Depending on the age of the child, the judge may also ask them questions. However, if there is no objection to the transfer of custody the court may grant the transfer without any testimony. At the end of the hearing, the court will make a judgment on whether or not to grant the transfer.
How long does the judgment last?
If the petition asks for a specific time period and it is put in the judgment, then it will expire at that time or when the child reaches eighteen(18) years of age. Otherwise, it is good until you, the parents or both of you make a request of the court called a modification and the court agrees to change the judgment.
If you are granted custody, what can you do for the child?
If you are granted custody these are the things the law says you have the right to do:
- Have the physical custody of the child;
- Protect the child;
- Train and discipline the child;
- Provide food and shelter;
- Enroll and make education decisions for the child;
- Make medical decisions for the child.
Can you prevent the parent from visiting with the child?
Parents still have an obligation and right to communicate with the child. If a limitation is asked for in the petition and the judge puts it in the judgment, then you can limit visitation. However, you must follow the visitation rules in the judgment. If there is nothing regarding visitation in the judgment, then you cannot limit the visitation. However, you and the parents can agree to visitation.
Do the parents still have the obligation to support?
Yes, parents still have the obligation to support the child. If asked for in the petition, the judge can put a child support amount in the judgment. If you will need or expect financial support from the parent(s), it is important that this is addressed and included prior to the final judgment. If the State has been receiving support payments from the parent(s), once custody is transferred to you, those support payments may be transferred directly to you.
Can I apply for benefits for the child or have the benefits the child receives put in my name?
Once custody has been transferred to you, you may apply for any benefits to which the child is eligible or entitled or have benefits the child is receiving transferred to you.
Is there a form for a petition for the Voluntary Transfer of Custody?
Yes. The law on Voluntary Transfer of Custody includes a form found in Louisiana Children's Code Article 1515. Many courts have petition forms available for you and the parent to fill out. For the form see http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=72983.
Are there any court costs that will have to be paid?
Yes, the amount will vary from court to court. You may also have to pay a notary to sign the affidavit of acceptance. Another cost may be a fee if a curator has to be appointed to find an absent parent.
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