When a minor child’s parent lives with and has legal responsibility over that child, the legal term is “custody,” but when anyone else has custody and legal responsibility over a child, the law calls it “guardianship.”

A guardian is someone other than a child’s parent who has legal custody of a child, the right to make all decisions regarding the child, and legal responsibility for the child. A temporary guardianship in the state of Indiana, however, makes someone a child’s guardian only for a specific reason and only for a specific length of time.

Temporary guardianship of a child in Indiana should not be confused with “testamentary” guardianship – these are two entirely different situations. A testamentary guardian is the person named in a parent’s will to be a child’s guardian if the parent or parents become deceased. A temporary guardian may be named either by the child’s parent or parents or by a court.

Temporary guardianship of a child may be established for several reasons in the state of Indiana:

Substitution: A temporary guardian’s appointment is appropriate if a parent will be unavailable to act as a parent for a short period of time. A temporary guardian’s appointment is appropriate for situations like a long hospital stay, for example, or a brief period of incarceration.

Incapacitation: A temporary guardian’s appointment is appropriate if a parent temporarily cannot care adequately for a child due to physical, mental, emotional, or economic incapacitation.

Emergency: A temporary guardian’s appointment is appropriate in emergency situations when a parent does not have the time required to name a long-term or permanent guardian. Most Indiana family lawyers understand that emergencies arise and are available to help on short notice.

HOW LONG DOES A TEMPORARY GUARDIANSHIP LAST IN INDIANA?

Temporary guardianship ends in Indiana when the reason the temporary guardianship was established ends – for example, at the end of a hospital stay or a period of incarceration. In many cases, temporary guardianships will be established by a court order, especially if the circumstances are urgent and the child or children need a guardian at once. The temporary guardian may then take responsibility for the child or children until a more long-term or permanent arrangement can be established.

How does a parent in Indiana go about arranging for a temporary guardianship? First, that parent should determine if establishing a temporary guardianship is genuinely necessary. Discussing your circumstances with an experienced family law attorney may be helpful.

If a parent shares custody with the child’s other parent, a temporary guardianship with another adult may not be needed. If a temporary guardian is genuinely needed, you must select as your child’s temporary guardian an adult whom you trust. A temporary guardian should probably be a friend of yours that your children already know well, someone they have already spent substantial time with.

WHAT SHOULD A PARENT DISCUSS WITH A TEMPORARY GUARDIAN?

Of course, when it comes to children, you can never assume anything. Directly ask the person you would like to name as a temporary guardian if he or she is available, willing, and up to the task of temporary guardianship.

If a person agrees to become your child’s or children’s temporary guardian, be sure to inform him or her regarding any medical concerns such as allergies. Make sure that both of you understand and agree on things like sleeping arrangements, the use of over-the-counter medications, and how to contact you if necessary in an emergency.

If you need a temporary guardian for your child or children for an extremely short amount of time – let’s say that you expect to be in the hospital for only three or four days – you can probably avoid having to name a temporary guardian.

You can simply let your child or children – especially older children – stay with and be supervised by someone you trust during your hospitalization. Even then, however, you should make absolutely certain that your friend can act as your child’s health care representative.

To name a friend as your child’s health care representative, you will need to complete a document or form – several are available online for downloading – that authorizes your friend to obtain necessary medical care for your child or children. The document should also include your own name, the children’s names and dates of birth, and your friend’s name.

You must sign the document, and another adult also must sign it as a witness. If possible, you should have the document notarized by an Indiana notary public. The document will then allow your friend to obtain any necessary medical care for your child or children.

You do not necessarily need to become the temporary guardian of a child who is not your own but who is residing temporarily in your home – for instance, if your own child’s friend is staying with your family for a few days or weeks. But if a child who is not your own is living in your home for any length of time, if you do not have temporary guardianship, it is imperative to have a health care document for the child.

WHAT IS AN INDIANA COURT’S TOP PRIORITY?

Whenever an Indiana legal proceeding involves a child, the court always makes the child’s best interests the leading priority. If you are asking an Indiana court to name a temporary guardian for your child or children, you should be able to show the court that naming a temporary guardian will benefit the child’s best interests.

You’ll certainly need the help that a Lake County family law attorney can provide. And everyone involved should understand fully that the temporary guardian of a child assumes all parental responsibilities and supervises the child’s education, housing, food, clothing, and medical care for the duration of the temporary guardianship.

All guardianship arrangements and agreements in Indiana typically require the assistance and guidance of a qualified family law attorney. If you need to name a temporary guardian for your own child or children in Indiana, obtain the assistance of an experienced Lake County family law attorney.

Even the simple naming of a temporary guardian may require some extensive legal paperwork. A good family law attorney can explain how the guardianship laws apply to your particular circumstances and resolve any mistakes or misunderstandings that may arise during the legal process.