The process for signing over guardianship of a child depends on the circumstance. Naming a short-term guardian for your child is usually a fairly simple process, while appointing a permanent guardian may require a lengthy journey through your state’s court system. The steps you take in that case also depend on your reasons for appointing a guardian.
Children may stay with grandparents or close friends during a parent’s illness, for part of a summer vacation or when a parent deploys overseas for military service. In this case, you can grant an individual or couple temporary guardianship of your child. This allows them to travel with the child and make decisions about recreational, school and religious activities. Because it’s an informal, relatively short-term agreement, it does not require a court’s approval.
To grant this authority, complete a form that documents specifics such as the child’s name, dates the guardianship starts and ends, how expenses are paid and other important information. It’s also essential that you give the temporary guardian written permission to seek medical treatment for your child. Most states and many legal organizations offer these forms online. Your state may require that signatures on the form be notarized. Some states, like Illinois, require that two adults who are not named as guardians act as witnesses. To be sure, check requirements via your county court’s or state’s website, or call an attorney.
Read More: How to Change the Guardianship of a Child
When you make a will, it’s important to name a legal guardian for your child in the event something happens to you. Upon your death, this type of guardianship request eventually finds its way to the court for approval. A judge will ordinarily grant your desire as long as the guardian you’ve appointed is still willing and able to serve. If another family member or individual decides to sue for guardianship, however, the judge will decide what’s in the best interest of the child. Factors such as your chosen guardian’s age, financial stability, location and relationship to the child may weigh heavily in this decision.
You can alter the terms of a guardianship as circumstances require. For instance, you may name one person as a personal guardian only. If you have concerns about that person’s financial skills, you could choose a different adult to act as custodian of your child’s financial interests. It’s important to discuss your plans with all the individuals you’re considering since guardianship is a significant responsibility. Many resources exist online to help you understand this sometimes complex process. Because state laws vary on the intricacies of guardianships and wills, and they can change, seeking the aid of an attorney is recommended.
Voluntarily Signing Over Legal Guardianship
If you’re no longer able to care for your child, giving legal guardianship to another person may be an alternative to surrendering your paternal rights, which typically leads to foster care placement and subsequent adoption. The court’s main objective is to provide minor children with a stable, loving and permanent family. Courts generally prefer to place children with relatives when possible, but another responsible adult may be named as your child’s legal guardian.
Signing over permanent, legal guardianship of your child is not the same as relinquishing your parental rights. Depending on the situation, the court may grant you visitation rights, but you’ll have no say in the day-to-day life of your child. The guardian will have legal and physical custody and make all decisions regarding your child’s health and well-being. It’s a complex process that falls under the jurisdiction of state courts and requires the assistance of an attorney. If you can’t afford legal services, your local legal aid society may help.
- You may also want to consider establishing a temporary guardianship for your child. This type of guardianship is used when you need another adult to care for your child for a short period (for example, during an illness, or while the child is on a school trip). Unlike a long-term guardianship, a temporary guardianship does not require a court order. The only requirement is that there be a written agreement giving temporary custody and control of your child to another adult for a specified period of time.
- A guardianship usually lasts until a child's 18th birthday, but in some cases it may end earlier. A guardianship can be difficult to overcome, so only seek a court-ordered guardianship as a last resort.
Sandra King uses her life experience as a small business owner, single parent, community volunteer and obsessive traveler to write about a variety of topics. She holds degrees in communication and psychology and has earned certificates in medical writing, business management and landscape gardening. She uses her writing skills to inform her audience of the many interesting adventures available in life and provides tips for growing beyond the challenges you’ll meet along the way.