Pursuing Custody of Brother's Daughter

by Amber from Fort Myers, Florida, Lee County

My brother in-law's daughter is not being taken care of properly, (hungry and ignored) she is 6 months old and the parents are young and let's just say not fit as parents.

1. I want to know, as the baby's aunt, can I take her in as my own at least until they grow up a little to realize that they have to take care of their baby?

2. If neglect is proven, would it be an ideal time to ask DCF for custody of the baby?

3. If the parents are proven unfit, would I have to go through with court and custody battles, or can I prove myself and take the baby on?

Answer to Florida Child Custody Question

Dear Amber,

If the parents will not consent to you having temporary custody of the baby, DCF will no doubt be involved at some point anyway.

You can contact DCF yourself and let them know that your niece is being neglected, and ask that they intervene.

DCF and their private counterparts are notoriously overworked and under staffed.

Depending on your local situation, you may or may not be able to have your niece removed and placed with you.

However, if the parents consent to your having temporary custody, things will likely go much more smoothly. There is a process in Florida under Florida Statute 751 whereby an extended family member can petition for custody of a close relative.

An aunt is considered a close relative under that statute. The forms you will need are available on the Florida Supreme Court's website, www.flcourts.org. Have a look at our Temporary Custody page for more information, forms, and links.

It is also possible to petition the court for temporary custody under this statute, even if the parents do not consent. If that is what you do, DCF will likely be called in to conduct a home study on the parents and on you.

The following is some information from the Florida Department of Children and Families website:

Florida Abuse Hotline: 1-800-962-2873

"More than 1 million children are victims of child abuse and neglect each year, according to state child protective service agencies. Many victims don't receive help because they are not reported to the system.

These abused and neglected children span all ages, races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. Child maltreatment includes actions that result in imminent risk of serious harm, death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child under age 18 by a parent or caretaker.

When parents can't, don't or won't protect their children, the Department of Children & Families steps in to help, providing a full spectrum of services, from parenting classes and respite care to transportation and child care. The goal of the department is to keep children safe in their own families when possible.”

Notice: We provide these answers to the general public and our website visitors as a means to further their online legal research. These answers are merely suggestions and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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