How to Arrange Temporary Guardianship for a Child

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Temporary guardianship refers to formally turning over the care of your children to another adult for a specific period of time, usually for six months or less. For example, temporary guardianship may be established if you need to be out of town on business for an extended amount of time or if you might be incapacitated while you recuperate from a medical procedure.

Establishing a temporary guardianship allows a child to live with another person other than their parents. That person becomes responsible for taking care of the child's day-to-day needs. In the event of an emergency, they can make important medical decisions on behalf of that child. Also, the guardian would be temporarily in charge of managing the child's education, finances, healthcare, and any other pertinent issues related to the child's upbringing and well-being.

States have different instructions, forms, and requirements for establishing temporary guardianship for your child. You will need to determine the specific guidelines for your state. Your local government may have a specific form you will need to fill out. If not, you will need to write a letter stating who you are appointing as guardian of your child and for how long and then have it notarized.

When Is Temporary Guardianship Needed?

The first thing you need to know is whether you need to establish temporary guardianship. If you share custody with your child's other parent, then setting up temporary guardianship with another adult might not be necessary. However, if the other parent is not going to be the person caring for your children in your absence, then you may need to designate a temporary guardian.

Additionally, if you are a widow or widower or have sole custody, then you might want to establish a temporary legal guardianship in the event you will temporarily not be available to readily handle, care for, or make decisions concerning your child.

Who Is the Right Person?

A temporary guardian will act a parent surrogate in your absence. So think about who is best suited to be there for your kids. You will want to select someone you trust completely to competently care for your children—and whose judgment you feel matches up well with your own. Ideally, this is also a person your children know and feel comfortable with. This will likely be a person your children have already spent considerable time with.

Often, a relative or close friend is chosen to serve as a temporary guardian. This person may be another parent whose children are near to your children's ages. You may also want to consider a family member who is willing to step in to help with your children.

Selecting a Temporary Guardian

Once you have gone through all of your options, develop a list of those who you would consider for the role of a temporary guardian. In addition to evaluating how they would parent your child, consider their other family and work obligations. Even if someone would like to help you, not everyone will have the time to take on the care of your children. Remember, this is a big responsibility, so do not be surprised (or hurt) if your first choice turns you down.

You will need to explain to the potential temporary guardian what temporary custody means—including the decisions that person should be prepared to make in your absence. Also, clearly explain your wishes for the care of your children to ensure that the two of you are on the same page.

Discussing the Guardianship

You will need to determine the length of time this temporary arrangement will cover. If you will be out of town for work or while serving in the military but will be somewhat reachable, you should discuss to what level you are rescinding control over decisions. You'll want to go over any schedules you expect the children to follow, such as school, meals, chores, and bedtimes. Share any extracurricular or social activities the child participates in.

You should have an understanding regarding sleeping arrangements, travel, and any other conditions you both may have. You will need to inform the temporary guardian about the child's medical history, recent medical care, and any medical concerns, including allergies, medications, or ongoing treatments. You will need to agree on the administration of over-the-counter medications.

Depending on the duration of the temporary guardianship, you might need to notify your child's school and physician about emergency contact information, so that they know who to contact and are aware that the guardian can make decisions on the child's behalf. Additionally, discuss any pertinent financial arrangements, so that it's clear who will be paying for the upkeep of the child during the temporary guardianship.

Making the Arrangement Official

In most states, you will need to fill out a temporary guardianship agreement form and have it notarized. You may or may not need to file it with your city, county, or state. You may only need to fill it out and keep a notarized copy on hand. Be sure that both you and the temporary guardian have a copy. The regulations differ in each state, so check with your local county court office to verify the rules in your area.

Notarizing the letter verifies that it is indeed your signature on the form, and ensures that your child's caregiver will be able to secure prompt medical treatment or make other important decisions for your child in your absence.

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2 Sources
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  1. Family Law Self Help Center. Short-term temporary guardianship.

  2. Grandfamilies (The American Bar Association/Center on Children and the Law). Care & Custody - Summary and Analysis.