Texas Parental Authorizations

Texas has an easy way for parents to allow a relative to care for their children – just sign a simple document. Our attorneys at Hammerle Finley have used it successfully for several families.
The name of the document is “Authorization Agreement for Nonparent Relative.” What a benefit for parents, grandparents and children!
Texas provides that a parent can essentially delegate legal care of a child to a relative, without going through an expensive and cumbersome court action. Sign a simple agreement, and the relative has authority to care for the child.
Some of decisions that can be delegated: authorizing medical, dental psychological or surgical treatment; obtaining health insurance for the child, enrolling the child in school or day care, authorizing participation in age appropriate extracurricular activities, authorizing the issuance of a driver’s license or identification card and applying for and receiving public benefits on behalf of the child.
Until this fairly recent law was passed, it was necessary for the relative to petition a district court to be given legal custody of the child, and granted certain rights of a parent in order to be authorized to make those and other decisions of legal consequence concerning the child. If the parents were divorced, this petition had to be filed with the court that granted the divorce and established primary custody. If the parents were never married, a suit affecting the parent child relationship had to be filed. All of these proceedings involved the hiring of an attorney, payment of court costs, attending a court hearing and having a proper order signed by a judge.
The Texas Family Code was amended in 2009 to allow a child’s parent or parents to enter into an agreement with a grandparent, adult sibling or an adult aunt or uncle of the child authorizing the relative to perform certain acts. See if this applies to your situation.
The child isn’t living with either parent.
There isn’t a pending case (divorce, guardianship) concerning the child.
Both parents agree and sign the document in front of a notary (but see below for an exception if both parents don’t sign).
The document provides for situtations when it will expire (such as end of a school year)
If both parents did not sign the authorization agreement, the parties must mail a copy of the signed agreement to the parent who did not sign the agreement within ten days after the agreement was signed, unless that parent’s rights have been terminated. The authorization agreement is void if the parties fail to comply with this requirement. The authorization agreement does not affect the parental rights of the child’s parent or legal guardian regarding the care, custody and control of the child; and does not mean that the relative has legal custody of the child. If both parents have signed the agreement, either one may revoke it without the other parent’s consent.
An authorization agreement isn’t appropriate for every situation – but it is a wonderful tool for the right situation.
By Craig Fowler and Virginia Hammerle