Laws on the Transfer of Legal & Physical Custody to a Relative

By Robin Elizabeth Margolis

There are many reasons why you may be considering transferring custody of your child to other relatives. You may be chronically ill, struggling with addiction or facing criminal charges. Your may ask a relative to become your child's legal guardian, kinship foster parent or adoptive parent.

Custody Definitions

Physical custody is your right to give your child a primary residence. Legal custody includes all parental rights except physical custody, including determining what tradition or religion your child will be raised in, what school your child will attend and which doctors your child will see. If you transfer legal and physical custody of your child to a relative, you are temporarily or permanently giving up all of your parental rights.

State Laws

Guardianship, kinship foster parenting and adoption each have their own required legal paperwork and court procedures that vary from one state to the next. When you decide which type of custody best suits your needs, you must look up your state's requirements for transferring your child to a relative within one of the three primary types of custody.

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Legal Guardianship

If a relative becomes your child's legal guardian, the arrangement can be temporary or permanent. Temporary guardianship is useful in situations lasting a few months to a year, such as your recovery from an illness. Your child is usually returned to you when the emergency situation is over. When your relative becomes your child's permanent legal guardian, your child is under your relative's control until the age of 18. You may become a co-guardian, have only visitation rights or give up all parental rights. Be aware that a court may seek input on possible guardians from your child and your child may tell the court he wants a different relative or family friend as guardian.

Kinship Foster Parents

If your relative takes custody of your child through a kinship foster parenting program, your relative can receive foster parent payments. Your relative will have temporary physical custody of your child, but the state foster care agency will have legal custody; thus, your relative will have to discuss any major decisions about your child with the state agency. Eventually, your relative and the agency have to decide whether to return your child to you, make your relative the child's permanent legal guardian or adoptive parent, or place your child with another adoptive family.


Giving up your child for adoption by a relative means you permanently surrender all parental rights and your child becomes the legal child of your relative. Adoptions are rarely canceled so once your relative becomes your child's legal parent, the arrangement cannot be reversed. In most states, you cannot leave your child an inheritance, unless you specifically mention your child in your will.

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Can Someone Take Guardianship if I Have Sole Legal Custody?



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Rights Regarding Child Care With Dual Custody

If you share joint legal custody with your child’s other parent, you have an equal, 50-50 say in all matters relating to child care. If you and the other parent disagree on a particular issue, mediation or a court hearing might be necessary. However, a co-parent is not permitted to withhold information about babysitters or refuse to allow the other parent access to the child’s day care facility. When you share custody, you and the other parent have equal rights to information and involvement when it comes to child care.

Ohio's Temporary Child Custody Laws

Ohio courts typically decide child custody issues, called parental rights and responsibilities, as part of the Ohio divorce process. Final custody arrangements are often not ordered until the court issues the final divorce decree. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a mutually satisfactory custody arrangement to use until the court issues its decree, either of you may ask the court for a temporary custody order.

How to Get Legal Guardianship of a Child While a Parent Is in Jail

When a parent is arrested, a child's life is quickly thrown into disarray. If no one volunteers to be the child's guardian, the child may be placed in foster care. In most states, there is a strong presumption in favor of placing a child with a relative, rather than putting the child in foster care. Legal guardians are responsible for fulfilling the same duties that parents fulfill, such as ensuring the child attends school and tending to the child's medical needs, so guardians should ensure they are prepared to take on these responsibilities.

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