Writing Clear and Effective Guardianship Documents

176

Granting guardianship responsibilities to third parties is something that can be done on a temporary basis for the purpose of adjusting to certain life situations. To an extent, guardianship documents are similar to the decisions parents make when they entrust the care of their children to others for a few hours; however, the difference is that formal assignment of guardianship entails temporary custody as well as certain powers, rights and expectations.

Guardianship letters convey authority and the right to make decisions concerning the child or children “in loco parentis,” which is Latin for “in place of the parents.” These letters are expected to be issued on a temporary basis; in most cases, they are written and executed by parents or legal guardians who are traveling far from their children for extended periods. One example would be a single mother who serves in the military and is being deployed abroad.

To be on the safe side, a guardianship document should be drafted by an attorney, but they can also be written on a do-it-yourself basis as long as the following elements are in place:

* The individuals who will be assigned guardianship can be identified and trusted upon.

* The term of the guardianship period is understood to be temporary.

* The level of authority over the child’s life can be clearly stated in the letter.

* Special obligations are clearly stated.

* A provision for termination is included.

* Contact information of all parties is included.

* The document can be duly notarized and witnessed.

The letter should start with a heading stating the purpose of the document, for example: Affidavit of Guardianship. The opening paragraph identifies the parties as parents or legal guardians, who will be the grantors, and the individuals being granted guardianship, who will be grantees. The children are then identified; the full names and aliases of all parties are required along with forms of identification and their respective numbers.

A simple affidavit of temporary guardianship can grant all powers and authority over the children; otherwise, limited powers and responsibilities should be clearly stated. A method for effectively terminating the period of guardianship shall be included; this can be by means of written, electronic or telephonic notification by the grantees to the grantors. In this section of the letter, it is a good idea for the grantors to state the limits of physical custody; for example, if arrangements to transfer guardianship to third parties at a later date have been made, the proper way to surrender custody must be established.

As for expenses and compensation, the grantees are generally expected to adequately provide a certain quality of life for children, but provisions in this regard can be included in the letter.

It is important to note that ambiguous statements on a guardianship document could complicate matters. It is generally understood that grantors can take physical custody or terminate the agreement at any time, but it is better to underscore this provision within the document. The final section should be a signature block with enough space for a notary stamp.