The Wisconsin legislature gave parents more options in planning for the short-term care and support of their children, if they are unable to do so. This assistance came in the form of a new power of attorney document which allows a parent to temporarily delegate full or partial parental authority to a third person without court or social services involvement. The Wisconsin Legislative Council Act Memo to 2011 Wisconsin Act 87, which created Wisconsin Statute § 48.979, specifically mentions the statute “authorizes the parent of a child to delegate certain powers regarding the care and custody of the child by a power of attorney . . . . without court involvement.” This section is similar to Ohio law which provides for a Grandparent Power of Attorney (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3109.52), specifying that the person caring for the child must be a grandparent, while the person delegating the authority can be a “parent, guardian, or custodian.”
Prior to the enactment of this new law, the only way a parent could delegate parental authority was through a formal guardianship proceeding or a petition for protective services. Obviously, these options were not practical for parents simply looking to delegate legal decision-making authority to a third person for a short period of time.
The new power of attorney allows a parent to temporarily delegate legal decision-making authority and care-giving responsibility for their children to a third party for up to one year. This tool is perfect for situations where parents will be unavailable due to a vacation or military service and they wish to delegate healthcare and other decision-making authority to a third party while they are away. This delegation of parental authority will also work in more serious situations such as the incapacity, medical treatment or incarceration of a parent.
There are limits to the use of the new parental power of attorney. For example, the power of attorney designation may not exceed one year, parental authority may only be delegated by individuals who have legal custody and both parents must sign if both have legal custody. The power of attorney must be properly executed and substantially conform to the statutory requirements. A parent who has delegated his or her powers may revoke the power of attorney document in writing at any time.
Where a child is at risk, however, a parental power of attorney may not be used to avoid protective services. And many parental powers cannot be delegated under the power of attorney provision, such as the parent’s right to consent to marriage of a minor child, or to consent to military enrollment. Neither can it be used to voluntarily place the child in foster care without the parent’s consent.
Whether it is for a short-term vacation or more permanent planning, it is important to plan for the care and support of your minor children. Attorney Paul A. Ksicinski has the expertise to advise you on what tools are best suited to accomplish your goals.