Guardianship Information

A biological parent, a custodian of a minor child, or a court ordered legal guardian may designate a person to be a temporary guardian of a minor child. The guardianship would give the designated person the ability to assume the duties of the natural parent or legal guardian of the child, including, but not limited to:

  • Enrolling the child in school;
  • Seeking and receiving medical attention for the child;
  • Seeking and receiving emergency medical attention for the child;
  • Seeking and receiving psychological attention for the child;
  • Applying for support for the child;
  • Taking the child on a vacation out of the state; and/or
  • Applying for welfare for the child.
Temporary guardianship is a written agreement between 1) the biological parents or a custodian of a minor child, or a court ordered legal guardian ("Parents") and 2) another adult named in the contract ("temporary guardian"). It is often called a power of attorney appointing temporary guardianship for a minor child. This temporary guardianship may be cancelled at any time by either party to the guardianship. This type of guardianship contract is not legally enforceable by the court. A notary should witness the signatures of the people signing the guardianship agreement. However, this only means that a notary confirms that the persons signing the document are actually the persons they claim to be. Having the document notarized does not make the document legally binding. This is not a court order, and it may not be honored by law enforcement officers, nor by the courts, in any dispute.

Temporary guardianships may be limited in purpose or time. For example, the guardianship agreement could be limited for the purpose of receiving medical attention so that someone could assist in taking your child to the physician. The guardianship agreement could be for a period of time so that the guardian could take your child on a vacation or perhaps care for your child while you are on a vacation. A guardianship agreement could also be limited in purpose and time.

Both "parents" should sign the guardianship agreement, unless the other parent is unknown or deceased. The "parents" assigning the guardianship should be certain that they trust the "guardian" with whom they are placing the child. In some cases, the "guardian" may not be willing to return the child when the "parents" decide to cancel the guardianship agreement. This would result in the "parents" having to file a custody complaint against the "guardian" to request a court order to have the child returned. Depending on the amount of time the child has been with the guardian, and the reasons the child has been with the "guardian," it could be difficult to get the child back.

There are various risks in designating a temporary guardian for your child. In addition to the above discussed difficulty in cancelling the temporary guardianship if the guardian is not cooperative in returning the child, some of those other risks are as follows:
  • The temporary guardianship may not be honored by a school or a physician, etc.; and
  • The police do not usually get involved in these types of cases if there is no court order in effect.
Because of these risks, and because there are no "official" standardized forms for the language to establish a temporary guardianship, it is strongly advised that you consult an attorney if you intend to create this kind of agreement. No office in the Courthouse has forms that can be used to designate someone as the guardian of your child.

Please note: Guardianship and custody are two completely different issues. A biological parent, etc. designates someone to be a temporary guardian. Custody involves a court procedure in which a parent, grandparent, etc. petitions the court for the legal right to keep, control, guard, care for, and preserve a child. This information sheet gives you basic information about guardianship. If you want to file for custody of a child, please see the Custody Packet.