A Delegation of Parental Authority (DOPA) is a document that lets someone take care of your children when you can’t. The person you give this permission to is called an “Attorney-in-Fact.”
A DOPA gives permission for someone else to make decisions about your child’s care, custody, and property. It is the same as if you made the decision yourself. This means that someone with a DOPA can take your child to the doctor for medical treatment. They can also excuse the child from school for things like illnesses, medical appointments, or other issues. A DOPA does not give permission to decide things like adoption or marriage.
A DOPA does not take away any your rights to make decisions for your children. You can still override any decisions made by the Attorney-in-Fact.
DOPAs are good when you are going out of the state or country for any reason. It can be part of vacation planning or if you are facing deportation or jail. Even if you are only at risk for these things it can be a good back-up for these kinds of emergencies.
You should have a DOPA for each of your children if:
You are planning a vacation
You are going out of state/country on business
You are at risk for deportation
You are at risk for going to jail
You have any worries about being able to care for your children on a day-to-day basis
No. A DOPA does not need to be approved by the court. But, you do have to make sure the other parent knows that you are giving this permission to someone else.
You have to give a copy of the DOPA to the other parent within 30 days of signing it unless they don’t have parenting time rights, or have supervised parenting time rights, or there is an Order for Protection in effect to protect you or your child from them.
A DOPA must be written, dated, and then signed by you in front of a notary public. The Attorney -in-Fact has to sign but does not have to sign in front of a notary. The DOPA is effective as soon as it is signed and notarized. Your Attorney-in-Fact can make decisions right away about your child.
You can fill out the attached form "Delegation of Parental Authority (DOPA)". If you don’t want to use the form you can write your own letter. A letter is fine if you make sure it includes the child’s name and birthday, what permissions you are giving to the Attorney-in-Fact and the expiration if you want it to be less than one year. Your DOPA, no matter what format you use, has to be signed and notarized, in order to be valid.
The law doesn’t say who you can or can’t name to take care of your children. Besides having to be over 18, there are no other specifics and there is no US citizen requirement.
You want to choose someone that you trust to make decisions about your child, either a family member, close friend, or neighbor, or another responsible adult. Make sure the person is willing to care for your children. Also, let your child know who to go to in an emergency.
The person does not have to be a citizen, but remember, they won’t be able to transfer care of your children to someone else if something happens to them. DOPAs are not transferrable. So, if you are worried about that, think about listing an additional person as an Attorney-in-Fact.
If the person you want to care for your child lives in another state, you need to find a form for that state. Minnesota DOPAs only work in Minnesota. Many states have similar laws and forms that let you do the same thing. It doesn’t mean you can’t travel with the child, but it could be an issue if the child is moved to another state. If you have questions about doing a DOPA in another state, talk to a lawyer who is licensed in that state.
It is important that your Attorney-in-Fact has information about your child. Here is a list of some basic info they may need:
School name and phone number
Name of the teacher, principal and/or social worker
Medical Insurance information
Names and phone numbers of Doctors, Dentist, and other health care professionals
Day-care provider information
Allergies (medicines, food, or environmental)
Daily routines and activities schedules
Friend’s contact information
It is a good idea to write out all this information and keep it with the DOPA. The Attorney-in-Fact should keep a copy of the DOPA with them to give to schools, doctors, and other authorities who may need proof that they are in charge of the child. They should also take a DOPA with them if they travel with the child.
You can stop (revoke) a DOPA in writing by letting the person you gave permission to know that you are stopping it. Also, all DOPAs automatically expire in one year. If you want to stop it before the date it expires, tell your child’s doctors, schools, and other care providers.
If you can’t sign a new form but still need someone else to care for your children, your Attorney-in-Fact might be able to take the expired DOPA to court and ask for a custody order. They can ask for custody of your child until you can care for them again. The court decides what is in the best interest of the child and if the person asking for custody is an appropriate person to care for the child.
If you are afraid of something happening suddenly that would make it impossible for you to care for your children, it is a good idea to sign a new DOPA every 6 months rather than waiting for the current one to expire. The easiest way to do this is to fill out the DOPA, except for the signatures, and make a few unsigned copies. Then you don’t have to rewrite it every time and can just take it to a notary for signatures.