I discussed Florida’s new Designation of Health Care Surrogate for Minor with a younger mother recently. She told me that she has a daughter by a former marriage and that her daughter is a minor. Under the marital settlement agreement, she and her former husband “share” responsibility for their daughter. The mother had remarried, however, and her daughter now has a step-dad. In fact, the mother and her daughter both now live in the same household with the step-dad. The mother told me that all three of the adults, mother, father/former-husband, and step-dad, get along very well and that each of them is very interested in the welfare of her daughter. What is to be done about naming a health care surrogate for the daughter in this situation?
As I have earlier discussed, in the event of a divorce where there is shared responsibility for a minor child, both of the parents remain the “natural guardians” of their child. They retain, therefore, the authority to make health care decisions for that child. In the event one of the parents remarries someone else, no such authority devolves to the step-parent, here the step-dad, even where the child lives in the new household of parent and step-parent. The contingency may arise, however, where both parents are unavailable to make health care decisions for the child but the step- parent is available to do so, if he had the authority. A solution in this case, especially where everyone concerned is united in a common interest in the child, is for the natural parents to execute a Designation of Health Care Surrogate for Minor that names the step-dad as the surrogate for the daughter.