When many people think of becoming the guardian of a child, they think of it lasting for years, or even until the child turns 18 and becomes a legal adult.

In addition, they may view guardianships as situations where children need to be removed from dangerous situations or unsafe homes. However, many guardianships are temporary and are due to parents being unable to care for children due to life circumstances that aren’t always their fault.

Temporary guardianships are a great way to provide stability in the lives of children who otherwise may go through a brief period of upheaval and stress due to the absence of a parent.

When Do Children Need Temporary Guardians?

There are a few reasons that a child might need a temporary guardian, including:

  • Parent’s military service
    If a child is being raised by a single parent who is being deployed on military duty, they will be unable to care for the child while they’re serving. Because deployments typically last for around one year or less, appointing a temporary guardian can ensure the child receives supervision and care while their parent is away.
  • Parent’s medical problems
    When a parent is recuperating from a major operation or incapacitated from a serious illness, they may be unable to properly care for their child or make sound decisions on their behalf. A temporary guardian can take over in this situation until the child’s parent is well enough to resume full-time parenting duties.
  • Parent’s imprisonment
    If a parent has to serve a jail or prison sentence, they may appoint a temporary guardian to look after their child while they’re behind bars. In these cases, guardians may be appointed by the court when it’s known that the parent will be incarcerated.
  • Parent’s business obligations
    It’s not uncommon for a parent to need to travel long distances and for long periods of time. When their job takes them far from home and makes them unable to directly care for their child for several weeks or months, a temporary guardian can fill their shoes until they return.
  • Parent’s drug or alcohol rehabilitation
    One of the hardest parts of breaking an addiction to alcohol or drugs for parents is participating in inpatient rehab and being away from their children. Thankfully, a temporary guardian can provide a safe and stable home for a child whose parent is undergoing rehab.
  • Child is unable to attend school
    When a child’s living situation is such that they are unable to attend school regularly or at all, they may need a temporary guardian who can ensure that they receive an education.

What Roles Do Temporary Guardians Play in the Lives of Children?

When people become temporary guardians, they should treat their roles very seriously, even when they know the parents of the children they’re looking after will regain custody in a matter of weeks or months. Children need stability and security, and being separated from a parent even briefly can be stressful and traumatic.

Temporary guardians are required to do the following for the children in their care:

  • Provide a stable environment
    A temporary guardian should have a home, apartment, or other living space that’s safe and secure for the child.
  • Provide financially
    A temporary guardian needs to have steady income or enough money to meet the child’s needs financially, including supplying food, clothing, and educational costs.
  • Make decisions
    A temporary guardian is tasked with making important decisions on behalf of the child in their care, including decisions about where to attend school, whether they can participate in certain activities, and what type of medical care they should receive.
  • Provide emotional support
    Even when a child has a safe roof over their head, clothes to wear, and food to eat, they can still suffer if they aren’t treated with kindness, dignity, and respect. A temporary guardian should do their best to love and support the child in their care as their parent would.

Do Temporary Guardianships Ever Become Permanent?

Yes, in some cases, temporary guardians can become permanent guardians of children until they reach age 18. This can occur when a temporary guardian asks for the guardianship to become permanent and the parent accepts, or when it becomes clear that the parent is unable to ever provide adequate and stable full-time care for their child.

Although most temporary guardianships are just that—temporary—and children are eventually returned to their parents, everyone who applies or agrees to be a temporary guardian should be prepared for the possibility that the arrangement could last longer than initially anticipated and even until the child becomes a legal adult.

We Can Help with Your Guardianship Questions and Application

Whether you’re thinking about becoming a temporary guardian, a permanent guardian, or changing a temporary guardianship to a permanent guardianship, we want to help. Our California family law attorneys have many years of experience helping children find stable and caring homes and guardians, and we can help the special child in your life, too.

Contact us for a free initial consultation today. We’ll review the facts of what’s going on in your life and the child’s life, and we’ll work hard to ensure a peaceful and stable resolution for everyone involved.

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