The Problem with Wisconsin’s Parental Power of Attorney Law

Posted on Categories Family Law, Public

Late last year, the Wisconsin legislature passed Wisconsin Statute section 48.979, which allows parents to delegate their parental rights to third parties by simply filling out a “Parental Power of Attorney” (PPOA) form.

Section 48.979 essentially allows parents with legal custody of their children to designate any third-party adult with nearly full decision-making power over a child’s life. What troubles me about this new law is that it does not allow for any oversight.

Section 48.979 requires absolutely no court or child protective services approval for PPOAs. I would imagine that some parents who might use a PPOA are people who have some difficulties in their own lives and, in turn, in raising their children. There is a long-standing Constitutional presumption that parents know what is in the best interest of their children and will act accordingly. Should we take that Constitutional presumption to mean that parents who might not be able to adequately care for their children should have the power to decide with whom their children should be placed and who should make decisions about their lives?

Reading between the lines, section 48.979 seems to be partially enacted to avoid the necessity for state intervention in the form of Child in Need of Protective Services (CHIPS) petitions and guardianship actions. While I can see good uses for the new law, perhaps the state should be more involved in these cases to ensure children’s welfare.

One thought on “The Problem with Wisconsin’s Parental Power of Attorney Law”

  1. Good issue to address, Marissa. There are times where these PPOAs are utilized as tools to take advantage of parents who are experiencing difficulties. Oversight is important because many times younger or disadvantaged parents do not realize what rights they are giving to a third party. Good post.

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