A temporary guardian is a person appointed by the court to play the legal role of a child's parent, when parents are unable to do so. A court may appoint a temporary guardian when a parent is incarcerated, temporarily too ill to care for the child or after a parent dies. In Arkansas, guardians have many of the same rights and responsibilities of parents. The guardian must relinquish the child to the parent at the end of the term of guardianship if the order of guardianship orders her to do so.
To become a child's temporary guardian, you must petition the family division of the circuit court in the county in which the child resides. If the child is currently in the custody of Child Protective Services, you should consult her caseworker before filing the guardianship petition. There is a strong presumption in favor of giving guardianship to family members or to adults with whom the child already has a close relationship.
Child custody decisions are made according to the best interests of the child. If multiple people seek guardianship, the judge will weigh the best interests of the child and make a determination about who would be better suited to care for the child on a temporary basis. Potential guardians must demonstrate that they can provide the child with a suitable environment, that they have the financial means to care for the child and that they are emotionally stable. Guardians are expected to provide love and care to the child in much the same way a parent would. A guardian who emotionally abuses a child or otherwise mistreats the child can be charged with child abuse.
Guardians have authority to make legal, medical and educational decisions for the child in the parent's absence. They can decide where the child attends school, which doctor the child uses and how to handle any legal proceedings involving the child. However, they must make these decisions based upon the best interests of the child. A guardian who consistently makes bad decisions -- for example, denying necessary medical care -- can be charged with abuse or neglect and have her guardianship revoked.
Guardians must pay for the care necessary to keep the child healthy, including medical, housing and food expenses. Occasionally, a parent will be obligated to pay child support for the child. If the child was previously in CPS custody, the guardian may request to become the child's foster parent. This removes some decision-making authority but does grant the guardian a small stipend to help pay for the child's care. If child support or a foster care stipend do not cover the full cost of a child's expenses, the guardian must pay for these items out of her own pocket.
References & Resources
- Kids Matter Inc.: Guardianship Frequently Asked Questions
- Examples and Explanations: Family Law, 3rd Edition; Robert E. Oliphant
- Arkansas Code of 1987: Title 9 Family Law
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images