Power of Attorney (POA) for Parents

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Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

Parents: you can now give someone power of attorney to take care of your children for up to two years. Learn more. #3105EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

You might need to give someone the power to care for your children temporarily. This might especially be true if you are going to jail or prison, you are being deployed by the military, or you are getting long-term medical treatment, such as  an inpatient substance use program.

In Washington State, you can now give someone power of attorney when you will not be available or able to provide care for any child under the age of 18 for whom you are legally responsible. You can give someone POA for as little as one day to as long as 24 months (2 years).

We explain POA here. There is a sample POA form below. There is also a questionnaire to help you gather your thoughts and to give the person with POA the information they will need to take care of the children.

Parents can temporarily give someone else their powers regarding care, custody, and/or property of the parent's child. The parent does this in writing using a new (in 2020) type of Power of Attorney under state law.  

Schools, doctors, banks, and so on should recognize and honor your POA. However, you should double-check that your child's school, doctor, bank, and others will accept this document. Before the state passed the POA law on June 11, 2020, a parent could sign a power of attorney only to allow another person to make medical decisions for their child.

This POA can last for up to 2 years from the date you signed it.

After that, you would probably need to sign another POA, or someone might need to seek a more permanent arrangement. This might include a court order of guardianship. Read New Minor Guardianship Law Effective January 1, 2021 to learn more.

You can take back (you can revoke) the POA at any time before the POA ends (before it expires). You should do this in writing and give a copy to anyone who has a copy of the POA to make sure everyone knows it is no longer good (it is no longer valid).

You can appoint any adult.

The child’s legal parent or parents must sign it. 

It is not required, but it is a good idea. Check with the school, doctor, bank, and so on. Make sure they will accept a POA that has not been notarized. For some financial matters or federal agencies, such as Social Security, you may need it notarized.

If you do not have the POA form notarized, you must have two witnesses also sign it. The witnesses cannot be your relatives. They cannot be your care providers. 

Talk to a lawyer who does family law. If the child's other parent has the right to time with the child, they might be able to argue that they should have custody and you should not give POA to a non-parent.

If you can, try to talk to the other parent before you leave or become unavailable to care for your child. Ask them if they will agree with and sign the POA. If they refuse, fill out section 7 of the POA very carefully.

If the other parent is not involved in the child's life, you can do a POA appointing whomever you want in your absence. But be aware: that parent could return and try to get custody of the child. A court could get involved.

You might be able to arrange to have another POA signed before the original one expires. The law does not necessarily allow for that.  

If you do not do this, someone might need to file a court case asking for guardianship of your children. Read New Minor Guardianship Law Effective January 1, 2021 to learn more.

*We have self-help guardianship packets at WashingtonLawHelp.org that can help both parents and the person filing the guardianship case. 

You must revoke the POA in writing. You can change your mind and revoke the POA at any time. If you still need someone else to look after the child, you should also execute (draw up and sign) a new one.

Your child's school or doctor might have their own form to allow other people to access your children's records, pick your child up from school, or get care for your child. Ask about those things and fill them out for your child to make sure you have covered everything.

Always have a copy of this with you if you can. You should also keep an extra copy in a secure place with your other important documents, in case your purse or wallet is lost.

You should also give a copy to the person to whom you give POA.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

Download Power of Attorney Form and Instructions

Last Review and Update: Apr 27, 2023
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