Types of Guardianships
A law that took effect July 1, 2002, allows a custodial parent or parents to sign a document designating a standby guardian for their child or children in the event the parent(s) become incapacitated. The guardianship is not activated until a health care professional certifies that the parent or parents have actually become incapacitated. At that point, a notice of the standby guardianship must be filed in Probate Court, along with a copy of the designation and the health care certificate.
Sometimes parents are temporarily unable to care for their minor children and must place them with a friend or relative who can care for the children until the custodial parent(s) can do so again. In these situations, a temporary guardianship of the minor can be useful to the parties so that the temporary guardian can enroll the child in school, authorize medical treatment, etc. For information on the procedure necessary to obtain a temporary guardianship, please view the temporary guardianship information.
This court will not grant temporary letters of guardianship from one custodial parent to another. A custody change or temporary agreement must be filed in the appropriate court having jurisdiction, usually the Superior Court but sometimes the Juvenile Court.
Permanent guardianships of minor children are not authorized unless both parents are deceased or the parental rights of any living parent have been terminated by a court. Termination of parental rights is not the same thing as a loss of custody. Termination is permanent. A custody order may be modified at a later date.
Conservatorship of the Property
A conservatorship of the property of a minor is required in order for any person who is not the child's natural guardian to receive, on the minor's behalf, money or property. A natural guardian may receive money or property for their child without becoming a conservator if the property is worth less than $15,000, provided no other person has been appointed conservator of the child's property.
A parent, in his or her will, may elect to nominate a testamentary guardian for a minor child or children. In this instance, upon the probate of the deceased parent's will, provided there is no other living parent, the nominated person shall receive letters of guardianship without notice or hearing. A testamentary guardian holds the same powers as a permanent guardian appointed by the court, but is not required to give bond.