How does temporary guardianship work?

child image by Renata Osinska from

Authorising temporary guardianship of a child to another person sometimes becomes necessary if a parent is going to be away for awhile or is recovering from illness or injury, particularly if there is no second parent.

While a biological or adoptive parent is normally considered to be a child's natural guardian, a guardian appointed by the parent or court is a person who provides for a child's welfare when the natural parent is unable to do so. Temporary guardianship actually is a form of power of attorney that gives another capable adult permission to care for your child. Usually, the person petitioning for guardianship is a relative or close friend.

Responsibilities of a Temporary Guardian

Once given legal custody of the child, the guardian assumes responsibility for providing the child with a home and medical care. He is also responsible for seeing that the child is enrolled in school. Temporary guardianship gives the guardian the right to make medical decisions regarding the child, including consent for any medical procedures or surgery that might be needed. In some instances, parents consent to temporary guardianship in order to allow a child to travel with the guardian(s). In cases where a parent is unable to provide any financial support for a child during the term of the temporary guardianship, the guardian often assumes the responsibility for supporting the child while the guardianship is in effect.

Filing the Petition

An attorney experienced in family law can offer advice or help to move along the required paperwork. Unlike a permanent guardianship, temporary guardianship is assigned only for a short period of time. When a temporary order of guardianship is granted, it normally remains in effect for between 30 to 90 days, but can be extended if needed. The petition for temporary guardianship must be filed in the county where the child resides. When circumstances warrant the need to appoint a temporary guardian for a minor child, the parent must complete a temporary guardianship form. The consent of the temporary guardian is required as well. All pages of the petition form must be completed. A notary public then witnesses and acknowledges the signatures on the form. Valid identification of any persons signing the documents is presented at that time.

Temporary Letters of Guardianship

The temporary guardian must reside in the same household where the child will be living. A criminal history check of the person(s) to be appointed guardian(s) must be obtained before the petition for guardianship is filed with the court. If the child's natural guardian signs the petition form, temporarily relinquishing parental rights, the final order is granted. By signing the consent and acknowledgement, the parent consents to the appointment of the petitioner as the minor child's temporary guardian. A certified copy of the temporary letters of guardianship authorising guardianship is issued to the temporary guardian(s) shortly following filing of the petition.