As a parent of a school-aged child, I get what you must be going through. The schoolwork, the tantrums, and the sometimes very acute feelings of loneliness. We are living a reality that makes our former problems seem insignificant.
You are already stressed, anxious and worried, and I hesitate to add “legal drama” to your concerns. So, instead of adding fuel to the fire, I will give you some easy things to do right now to safeguard your kids, give you peace of mind, and fill your time with productive work.
I, of course, recommend that you see an attorney to properly draft your legal paperwork. Compare it to a dentist. Would a dentist say to “go ahead and pull your tooth with plyers”? They won’t say that as there may be some pain and other negative ramifications that occur when you do not use the services of a professional. The same occurs in the law. There are many websites out there saying you can draft legal documents on your own, but that is like pulling out your tooth with plyers! However, if you are in a serious pinch, it may serve you well to at least get your thoughts down in writing and sign the document.
Step 1: Name Permanent/Temporary Guardians for your Children
First, take some time to think about who could take care of your children temporarily or even permanently. I do not want to go through a list of “what-ifs” as we have enough anxiety for us to bear. But, we could use our imagination to see circumstances in which we would need temporary or permanent help with our kids.
To get started, write the names of your kids; their birthdates; your name; another parent’s name; the full legal names, addresses and phone numbers of guardians (in order of priority); and sign with your full legal name. There are other formalities that must occur to make the document legal and enforceable, but this recommendation is for dire circumstances. Reach out to an attorney now to get started so you do not find yourself in a last-minute situation.
Is there someone you would NOT want to take care of your kids? Write down that information with some details and place it with your other important documents.
Step 2: Make an Emergency Phone Tree
Put together an emergency phone tree. List the numbers of parents, guardians, next of kin and even neighbors. Make sure this information is easily accessible in a high traffic area of your house (the kitchen?). I would place it in a folder or clip with a cover sheet that says “Emergency 911” so that someone would be able to find it quickly in your house if needed. Tell the people on your list that they are listed as emergency contacts and make certain they have their own copies of the temporary/permanent guardian legal documents.
Step 3: Share Information About your Kids
Make some notes about your child’s desires, doctor information, likes/dislikes, etc. For my client, I provide a “More About Us” form that sets forth what someone would need to properly care for my child. I do not want my son to be scared if I am not there so I give some information about what he likes to read, how he falls asleep, what he eats, and similar things. If you would like to my “More About Us” form, email email@example.com.
Step 4: Teach your Kids to Contact Family or Friends
For single parents, or those alone with a child, try to teach your child how to call the other parent or someone else in an emergency. I taught my son how to use FaceTime and I made sure the contacts have pictures so he knows who he is calling. Do the best you can here. Otherwise, make sure someone is checking on you daily.
I hope this list was helpful and will give you something productive to do to ease your anxiety. Wishing you the best. Please reach out if you have any questions.
Based out of Tampa, Florida, Lori is mom to a fantastic 5-year-old boy. They love to go on local adventures, travel and play with matchbox cars for seemingly endless hours. Lori enjoys reading classic novels, organic gardening, and studying languages with her son. She considers herself well-versed in Seinfeld and welcomes any trivia!
Disclaimer: The Law Office of Lori Vella’s website contains general information directed to Florida residents. This firm does not intend to give legal advice through its pages and/or blog. If you need legal advice, we encourage you to find an attorney licensed in your state. This language on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and this firm.