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Power of Attorney for a Child

A power of attorney for a child allows parents and legal guardians to give another adult the temporary legal right to make decisions about their minor child's care.

If you will be unable to care for your child for a long time, you might want to use a power of attorney for a child. It allows your child's caregiver to make important decisions about your child's medical care, education, and other needs. Under a power of attorney, this caregiver is known as the agent or attorney-in-fact.

When Should I Have a Power of Attorney for a Child?

If you need to leave your child in someone else's care for several days or longer, you will want that person to have the legal right to make decisions about your child's care.

Common reasons to use a power of attorney for a child are:

  • Long vacations or work assignments far from home
  • Hospital stays or other health issues that may prevent you from caring for your child for more than a few days
  • Deployment for active military duty
  • Incarceration

You may not need a power of attorney for a child if you leave your child in someone else's care for a short time and only want that person to make medical decisions if there is an emergency. For shorter periods, a consent form for medical treatment may be all you need.

What Powers Does a Power of Attorney for a Child Give the Agent?

A power of attorney for a child allows the person caring for your child to act as a parent or guardian in your absence. It does not terminate parental rights or transfer custody to the agent, and it does not prevent you from continuing to make decisions for your child.

A power of attorney for a child can be broad or narrow. You can give the agent almost all the powers you have as a parent, but there are some rights you cannot give away. The agent will not have the authority to give your child up for adoption or limit a parent's or guardian's rights.

You also can give limited powers to the agent by listing the specific powers you are granting in the power of attorney. You might want the agent to have the ability to make healthcare decisions and travel with your child but not the ability to enroll your child in a new school if the agent only will be caring for your child during the summer.

Whom Should I Appoint as My Agent?

You should consider someone who has a good relationship with your child. Parents often choose close family members, such as a child's grandparent, aunt, or uncle, or a close family friend because their child is comfortable with them.

It is important to pick someone you trust to make good decisions for your child. You might have a close family member whom you and your child love but who does not make the best financial or personal decisions. This person might not be the best choice to care for your child.

You also should consider whether they are healthy enough to care for your child and have a flexible enough schedule to take your child to and from school, daycare, sports, and afterschool programs.

It is helpful to discuss what you expect from a potential agent before appointing them. Doing so allows the potential agent to know the limits of their powers and what your wishes are for your child. It also gives the agent the opportunity to decline the appointment if they do not feel comfortable with the responsibility required to care for your child. By having a discussion, you will know whether you should choose a different person if the potential agent does not share your values and goals for your child.

How Long Does a Power of Attorney for a Child Last?

A power of attorney for a child is temporary. You can choose the start and end dates. It also can start when a specific event happens, which is a good option if you do not know if a health condition will leave you incapacitated and unable to care for your child. If you do not choose a duration, it will expire at six months or one year, depending on the law in the state where your child is.

If you need to extend the time past the state limit, you may sign a new power of attorney. State time limits do not apply to military members on active duty. Under federal law, a military member's power of attorney for a child lasts until they return home from deployment.

If your situation changes and you no longer need the power of attorney for a child, you can revoke it any time before it expires. To avoid confusion, you should inform your agent and your child's healthcare providers and schools that you have revoked it.

How Do I Create a Power of Attorney for a Child?

To create a power of attorney for a child, you will need the following:

  • Names, dates of birth, and contact information for yourself and your agent
  • Names and dates of birth of the children
  • A description of when or how the power of attorney starts and ends
  • A list of the powers you wish to give your agent
  • notary public

If the child has two parents with joint legal custody, both parents should sign the power of attorney. If the other parent is unavailable or unreachable, you should be able to be the only signer if you have attempted to contact the other parent in writing. A legal guardian also may sign a power of attorney for a child.

Because this is a legal document that gives the agent authority to care for your child, it should be notarized. When you leave your child in the agent's care, the agent should keep the original notarized power of attorney, your child's health insurance cards, and other identification needed for your agent to care for the child. You should keep a copy of the power of attorney for your records.

Do I Need an Attorney To Create a Power of Attorney for a Child?

For a simple power of attorney for a child, you may not need an attorney. However, it may be a good idea to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney who is licensed in your state to ensure that your power of attorney covers everything you need for your child's care.

An attorney can help you decide which powers to give your agent and can ensure that your power of attorney for a child is executed properly.

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