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Temporary Guardianship of a Child: Laws & Examples

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 Defined

Temporary guardianship consists of one or both parents legally agreeing to turn over custody of a child, for a specified period of time, to another adult. In these cases, it can't just be any adult. The prospective guardian does not have to be blood-related but does have to be close to the child.

There is a difference between temporary and permanent custody, with the biggest difference being time. With temporary custody 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 now has the legal right to make important decisions on behalf of the child, including financial and medical decisions. The temporary guardianship gives the guardian the same rights as the parent once had.

Reasons for Temporary Guardianship of a Minor

You may be asking yourself, why would a parent ever choose to turn over custody of their child to someone else? Well, there are various reasons for this, but before discussing these reasons, 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 takes temporary custody of their child or children is financial difficulties. The guardianship is temporary until the parent's financial situation improves. The parent may also be physically ill due to a medical condition that renders the parent temporarily incapable of providing care to their child. If the parent has a mental health condition that prevents him/her from providing care, it can also resort in a temporary guardianship case. Either way, the purpose of the temporary guardianship is to provide quality care to the child in the temporary absence of the parent.

Court judges will decide upon 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, guardianship can range between two to six months.

Request For Temporary Guardianship

When it comes to temporary guardianship, a parent or relative can make the request. An individual does not have to be blood related to the minor, but does have to know the minor. Rather related or not, when a petition for guardianship is filed, the biological parent(s) must be notified in person. Legally, the prospective guardian would have to pay a court process server to personally serve court papers to the parent notifying them 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 request, a hearing will be held and the judge can decide upon what is best for the child. It is the family court judge who presides over these cases.

The Department of Children and Family Services can also remove a child from a parents 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, it can be with a DCFS authorized foster family or a group home.

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