What Should I Do If I Can’t Care for My Child?

There are many reasons you might feel like you are not up to the task of adequately caring for your child. You could be going through a difficult divorce and not know where the money to support your child will come from. You may have just received difficult medical news and need to receive treatment. You may require detox or rehabilitation for a substance abuse disorder. Whatever the situation, it is important to look out for the best interests of your child while you figure things out. Take certain steps to ensure the proper care of your child, whether you will still be the child’s caretaker or whether custody will temporarily go to someone else.

Apply for Temporary Alimony or Child Support

Many parents do not realize they could be eligible for temporary financial support from a spouse during a divorce case, even before the judge finalizes the divorce order. A lawyer could help you apply for temporary child support and/or spousal maintenance to help you pay for your child’s needs during a divorce as the lower-earning spouse. You can make this request as soon as you start or file your case. A judge could order your spouse to provide for you and your child financially for the duration of a divorce settlement or trial.

Request Financial Assistance

You may also be able to apply for financial relief through state or federal assistance programs. The California government offers many resources to help parents who cannot financially care for their children. Examples include the California Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program; CalFresh; Food Assistance; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and electronic benefits transfer (EBT). You could also apply for federal programs such as Early Head Start and Head Start, which provide childcare and development services to low-income families.

Temporarily Give Custody to a Relative

In situations where it would benefit your family to temporarily hand over the care of your child while you get back on your feet, you can arrange a guardianship in California. A guardianship may be the right choice if you are experiencing medical problems or are struggling financially, and if temporarily giving up custody would allow you to get back on track. Voluntarily arranging a guardianship will give you control over which family member looks after your child and how long the temporary situation will last.

Initiate a temporary guardianship by naming the person or people you would like to watch your child. You will not have to go to court to initiate a guardianship. Simply draft a letter stating the names of the people who will take custody of your child and clearly stating that you are granting the family member the right to make education and health care decisions on your child’s behalf. Get your letter notarized so it becomes a legally enforceable document. You may then give custody of your child to the guardian for as long as you need.

Work With a Divorce Lawyer

If your concerns over caring for your child stem from a pending divorce in which your spouse was the breadwinner, hire an attorney to help you prepare for the future. A lawyer can help you resolve financial concerns through means such as applying for child support money and/or alimony. If you have primary custody of the child and were financially dependent on your spouse, a judge will most likely grant your requests for these awards.

A spousal support order could help support your financial needs until you can find a job. Child support can continue providing money to care for your child until he or she turns 18. A lawyer can also help you apply for the financial relief you will need to take care of your child after a separation or divorce, connecting you with state and federal resources for parents.