Different than custody or adoption, guardianship allows you, as grandparent, the care and custody of grandchildren and certain legal rights, while keeping parental rights intact. There is a Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act which is a model act for states; however, the exact papers, filing fees and legal procedures may vary state to state. Most proceedings are handled by the probate or family courts. While you do not necessarily need to hire an attorney to represent you, you may want to consult one to help guide you through the process and the paperwork.
Types of Guardianship
Temporary guardianship is usually established during an emergency, when parents, due to an immediate situation, cannot carry out the legal responsibilities of parenthood and guardianship is granted to a third party temporarily, until long-term guardianship is awarded. In many states, this does not require a hearing, but is granted through court paper filing for a ninety-day period. Plenary guardianship is full guardianship where you are awarded by the court, within your state, the full rights and responsibilities for your grandchild.
Petition for Guardianship
Each state reserves the right to implement forms of petition of guardianship. Typically, these legal forms contain information about the child, the circumstances warranting the granting of guardianship, a list of close blood relatives interested in the child’s well-being, information about you, and a declaration or oath by you, that as guardian, you will take full custody, care and responsibility of the child.
Some states require grandparents seeking guardianship to present proof of medical and mental fitness for guardianship. Release for criminal background checks may also be requested, as many states do not allow a person convicted of a felony, or specific felonies, to be awarded guardianship of minor children. In some cases, a home study or evaluation is done to ensure the appropriateness of placement for children. Notice of intent forms, to notify interested parties of your filing may also be required.
In many cases, grandparents also seek conservatorship of the child’s financial interests along with guardianship. This is usually done if a child has lost one parent and was left an estate. In order to receive court appointment, you will need to file a petition of conservatorship, or in some states, this may be a joint filing with the petition for guardianship. You will need to file an inventory of all property and money along with all the prerequisites and information mentioned for guardianship such as other blood relatives, and information about the child and yourself. Evaluations of your medical, mental and home conditions may also be required.
You may reside in a state that requires the filing of a child’s care plan. This would note how you plan to care for the child, your work schedule, planned childcare, and schooling. Many states require you to file this care plan and any updates with the court each year. In some cases, you will have to also fill out a form designating a standby guardian in the event that something happens to you.