Temporary Guardianship of a Child: Laws & Examples

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  • 0:04 Definition
  • 0:52 Reasons
  • 2:17 Request
  • 3:11 Emergency Guardianship
  • 4:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Vericia Miller
In this lesson, you'll learn about the temporary guardianship of a minor, including the types of temporary guardianships. You'll also learn some of the reasons behind a person's decision to seek temporary guardianship of a child.


Temporary guardianship refers to one or both parents legally agreeing to turn over custody of a child, for a specified period of time, to another adult. While the prospective guardian does not have to be blood-related, he/she does have to be close to the child.

There is a difference between a temporary guardianship and permanent custody, with the biggest difference being time. With temporary guardianship cases, the prospective guardian is requesting custody of the child for a short period of time. The length of time requested will vary based on the situation, but keep in mind that a temporary guardianship is short-term. Once temporary guardianship is granted, the guardian will have the legal right to make important decisions on behalf of the child, including financial and medical decisions, or the same rights as the parent once had.


You may be asking yourself, why would a parent ever choose to turn over custody of his/her child to someone else? Here's a good example of why temporary guardianship cases are initiated.

Lisa is a single parent who works as a waitress at the local diner. She has two small children ages two and seven. She is having a hard time paying her bills on her minimum wage salary, and her bipolar disorder appears to be getting worse. Though Lisa loves her children and would do anything for them, emotionally and financially, she cannot handle the stress of being a single parent. Lisa asks her best friend if she would take temporary guardianship of her children until she gets back on her feet. The friend is financially stable, does not have children, and is willing to do it.

One of the reasons parents request that another person have temporary custody of their child or children is because they're having financial difficulties, or the parent may be physically ill due to a medical condition. If the parent has a mental health condition that prevents him/her from providing care, it can also result in a temporary guardianship case. Either way, the purpose of the temporary guardianship is to provide quality care to a child in the temporary absence of the parent.

Court judges decide how long a child remains in the custody of the guardian. Each case is different and presents different circumstances that can affect the length of time for the guardianship. However, in most cases, a temporary guardianship can range between two to six months.


When it comes to a temporary guardianship, a parent, relative, or other person that knows the child can make the request. Related or not, when a petition for guardianship is filed, the biological parent(s) must be notified in person. Legally, the prospective guardian must pay a court process server to personally serve court papers to the parent notifying him/her of the petition filed. Typically, parents are already aware of the guardianship request, but legally it has to be documented, which is why parents must be served. If the parent does not agree with the request, a hearing will be held and a family court judge will decide what's best for the child.

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) can also remove a child from a parent's home if the child is in immediate danger and place the child in temporary custody. If not with a family member, also known as next of kin, placement may be with a DCFS authorized foster family or a group home.

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