Parents can voluntarily place their children in the care of a nonparent for a limited period of time under a Texas temporary guardianship order. Reasons for a voluntary guardianship include the parent being away for work, entering voluntary rehab or recuperating from an extended illness or medical condition. Most voluntary guardianships are with other family members, but this isn’t a requirement.
Texas Kincare Project
Grandparents, aunts and uncles often take the responsibility for caring for children when parents are unable to fulfill their parental duties. Texas Kincare is a program designed to help close family members gain temporary or permanent guardianship in cases not involving child protective services. The program helps low-income nonparent caregivers with assistance for medical and legal aid while being a guardian. It walks the new caregiver through state funding programs, such as welfare and food stamps for the children.
Authorization Agreement for Nonparent Relative or Voluntary Caregiver
In Texas, you can obtain temporary guardianship by completing the Authorization Agreement for Nonparent Relative or Voluntary Caregiver. Forms are available at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website. Guardians assume authorities that include:
- authorization over medical, dental and psychological treatments, including immunizations
- obtain and maintain health insurance for children
- choose an appropriate school for the children
- authorize participation in extra-curricular activities
- authorize obtaining a learner's permit and driver's license
- acquire all pertinent auto insurance
Guardian authorization does not provide the ability to authorize an abortion or emergency contraception for the child. Guardians can receive public benefits on behalf of the child, such as food stamps.
Duration of Guardianship
A signing parent can define a period of time for the guardianship, but doesn't need to. The authorization is revocable at any time. For example, a single parent who is away on military duty can revoke the guardianship upon her early return. Many signing parents don't enter exact dates or time frames on the form. There is also the option to extend guardianship upon death of the parent.
Filing the Form in Court
The parent who authorizes the temporary guardianship must sign the form. In cases where both parents are unable to maintain parental duties, both parents must sign the form. The family member or caregiver assuming guardianship also signs the form. All signatures must be notarized.
Court filing is not required except in cases where custody or child support orders exist. In such cases, the courts will review the temporary guardianship, making sure it doesn't conflict with existing court orders. Judges decide all situations that are in the best interests of the child and confirm all parties are in agreement. Where divorced parents are concerned, court approval isn’t always required. But a custodial, signing parent must mail a copy of the voluntary agreement to the noncustodial, non-signing parent unless a protective order is in place or the noncustodial parent has been convicted of crimes specified on the authorization. Crimes include offenses such as murder, kidnapping, prohibited sexual conduct or other violent acts.
Things to Consider
A temporary guardianship has legal and financial ramifications for all parties. Both the signing parent and the assuming guardian need to fully understand how the agreement affects them.
When a parent requests the child back, the guardian cannot deny it. Not returning a child upon immediate request may have criminal consequences. Remember that this is a voluntary assignment. Guardians concerned about a parent’s inability to care for the child must still return the child. Then the guardian would have to prove the parent is either incompetent or criminally negligent through more extensive proceedings to prevent a parent from restoring parental rights. Essentially, courts and child protective services would then become involved.
Caregivers are responsible for certain expenses for the minor, but parents, under the standard agreement are still responsible for supporting the child.While welfare programs are available, children may not always qualify, and the burden can eventually fall upon the guardian for children whose parents fall into financial hardship.