As a parent, you can give custody of your children to her grandparents on a temporary basis without losing your own legal rights.
To give your child's grandparent custody of your child on a temporary basis, you have several options. However, to give legal custody of a child to a third party, you and the grandparent must petition the court for legal standing as decision-makers in the child's life. While laws are different in each state, a temporary guardianship can often be done simply by filling in an online form and presenting it to the court.
Informal Physical Custody
To some, it may appear that the most straightforward way to give grandparents temporary custody of a child is to simply have the child start living with them. However, if you choose to do this, understand that this gives you, the grandparents and your child no protections under the law. While grandparents may be able to care for the child, they will be unable to make any legal decisions for him. Even signing a permission form for a field trip could be impossible if a grandparent does not have legal guardianship. Legal guardianship can only be granted by a court order.
To appoint a child's grandparent as her legal, temporary guardian, the grandparent must submit a petition to the court, normally the probate court in your state. In many cases, the required forms are available from the appropriate court online. Unlike a permanent guardianship in which a grandparent would replace a parent as the child's legal guardian, a temporary guardianship usually makes the grandparent a guardian in addition to the parent for a limited time period, such as 12 months.
As the court petitioner, the grandparent fills out the appropriate form explaining why she wants temporary guardianship of the child. You, as the parent, must also sign the form, acknowledging your agreement to the petition, as well as the child's other parent. In some states, like California, the child may have to sign the form as well if she is over 12 years old.
Some states, like Connecticut, allow a parent to name a standby guardian for a child, including a grandparent. A standby guardianship takes effect when a specified situation happens, like a serious illness. As the parent, write a letter naming the grandparent guardian under the specific situations you specify. Sign it and have your signature witnessed by two disinterested parties. You can revoke a standby guardianship at any time by notifying the grandparent in writing.
In order to claim guardianship, the standby guardian must sign an affidavit stating that the specified situation has happened. The affidavit must be signed, witnessed and sworn to under oath. The guardianship ends automatically when the situation has resolved or at the end of one year. If you die while the standby guardianship is in effect, it ends after 90 days. However, the grandparent can then petition the court for permanent guardianship.
A third option is to petition the court to have a grandparent, or anyone else you choose, named as co-guardian. Unlike a temporary or standby guardianship, this co-guardianship is permanent. To remove the grandparent as co-guardian, you would have to petition the court again to have the co-guardianship removed.
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
- HelpGuide.org: Grandparents' Rights and Custody Options
- Family Law Self-Help Center: Short-Term Temporary Guardianship
- Connecticut 2-1-1: Kingship Caregivers/Grandparents Raising Grandchildren/Custodial Relatives
- West Virginia Legal Services: How to Give Your Friend or Relative Temporary Custody of Your Child
- NYC Caregiver: Grandparenting
- Connecticut Probate Courts: User Guide: Guardians of Minors