Although it feels like a daunting task, I often remind my clients that it's essential to prepare their entire family for every possibility -- including deportation. The main concern most parents have is seeing that their children are taken care of in case they are forced to leave the country, which inevitably leads to the same question: "Is a letter from a notary enough to transfer temporary guardianship of my kids if I am deported or do I need a legal power of attorney?"
With the recent spike in immigration raids and deportations following Donald Trump's immigration executive orders, more and more people are seeing the need to prepare for worst-case scenarios. That means more and more people are having to make a decisions on how to prepare to transfer temporary guardianship of their children in case they are deported.
What some people do not realize is that there is a significant difference between a simple letter written by a notary and a prepared power of attorney.
Letter From Notary
In preparing for the possibility of a deportation, many individuals have turned to public notaries to prepare a written letter transferring temporary guardianship of their children to a trustworthy individual.
Oftentimes, however, these written notary letters do not specifiy the scope of the temporary guardianship, and are missing essential information that gives temporary guardians legal power over your children. They can be generally ineffective.
That's because, unlike some countries in South and Central America, public notaries in the United States have no official legal training and may not know how to accurately prepare the paperwork needed to transfer parental powers.
Power of Attorney
In order to effectively transfer temporary legal guardianship of your children, you will need to have a power of attorney prepared and on file.
A power of attorney temporarily assigns parental, custody or guardian rights to a trustworthy individual you choose. With this document, another person will have legal authority over your children for health, medical and other major decisions, with certain limitations, when you're absent.
You also have to option to give your agent specific responsibilities. A few of the more common powers your trusted agent could have include:
- Enroll children in school and extracurricular activities;
- Have access to school records and participate in decisions regarding the children's education, including attending parent-teacher conferences;
- Obtain medical, dental and mental health treatment and make healthcare decisions on behalf of children;
- Provide for the children's food, lodging, housing, recreation and travel;
- Make payments (home, auto, etc.) on your behalf
Although a power of attorney effectively transfers legal guardianship of your child to an agent of your choosing, it is only temporary. In Oklahoma, a power of attorney for child can last up to 1 year, giving you a wide window of opportunity to make a decision on the long-term care of your children.
Who Can Prepare a Power of Attorney?
Typically, a lawyer can help you prepare the most effective power of attorney. An effective power of attorney will include "power" only in the areas you designate.
You can choose to work with a notary, a community agency or another trusted person to prepare a power of attorney, however these may not be as effective.
Choosing an Agent
You may choose any adult who you want to look after your children, but I highly recommend my clients to choose an adult who is a U.S. Citizen. Your Agent does not have to necessarily be a family member, but you should consider the following:
- Someone you trust;
- Someone your children know and trust;
- The potential Agent's ability to act on behalf of your children's best interests
- The potential Agent's other time commitments, experience with children and their general health.