In this article, we focus on how to write a guardianship letter and the circumstances when you may need one.
Consider these three situations:
- You and your wife are both working professionals, and you travel a lot for work
- As a single working parent, you aren’t always home
- You are deploying to the military
In each of these situations, what do you do about your kids? If your child needs medical treatment while you’re away, they won’t be able to get help without a guardian present. Your child may have a school trip or activity that requires parental consent.
These are just some examples of where a guardianship letter might come into play. However, there are other situations including illnesses, military deployment, incarceration, divorce, and separation where you will want a guardianship letter. In these situations, you will want to transfer guardianship of your children to someone else until you’re back to a normal routine.
That’s where something called a “Guardianship Letter” comes in.
What is a guardianship letter?
Before considering how to write a guardianship letter, it’s important to understand what a guardianship letter is. A guardianship letter is a document that allows you to transfer guardianship of a child temporarily. A guardianship letter allows you to give grandparents or other close friends or relatives legal custody and guardianship over your children.
While you are away, the person you appoint as guardian can fill in and support you until you’re back. The guardianship letter allows your chosen guardian to act on your behalf in front of doctors, dentists, schools and other authorities who need parental consent. The guardianship letter will outline how long the guardian will care for your children and what they are allowed to do during this time.
What specifically is “guardianship”?
Guardianship means that you are the legal guardian for someone. Some jurisdictions call this “custody”. In most cases, the parents are the legal guardian of their children unless a judge has deemed otherwise.
Every state has different laws. Some do not allow legal guardians without approval by a court or a judge. Some states allow guardianship through a guardian letter. It’s important to check with a lawyer in the state the child lives to understand the specific state rules. For example, in Tennessee, the child must have lived with the adult for at least 6 months before applying for guardianship.
Can I write a guardianship letter myself?
Your best bet is to get a lawyer to write a guardianship letter and get a local judge to authorize it. If you don’t go this route, prepare for the unintended consequences.
Of course, you can write a guardianship letter by yourself, but you may run into problems. For example, schools or doctors may not accept a letter that doesn’t look official.
Think about it like this. Let’s say that you are a school administrator and someone comes to you wanting to enroll a child in your school.
If the adult handed you a piece of paper that doesn’t look professional, you may be inclined not to accept. This happens often. If your guardianship letter is notarized in another state or is missing some important information, it may not be well received.
And heaven forbid if the child and the adult are from different states or different counties. Imagine what would happen if you don’t have an authorized legal document granting temporary guardianship.
If you can afford it, it’s always best to check in with a professional to cover all your bases.
Where do I go to get a guardianship letter?
Find a local family law lawyer in the area where the child is going to stay temporarily. Family law lawyers specialize in matters related to parents and children. Don’t make the mistake of hiring a generalist lawyer who doesn’t know the finer details concerning family law.
If you don’t know a family law lawyer or you are not familiar with lawyers in the area that your child will be staying, you can go to Find Legal Help. If it’s more convenient for you, you can contact the American Bar Association Service Center at 1-800-225-2221. The direct link to each state’s lawyer directories is here.
You also want to make sure you avoid a lawyer who has been disciplined for ethics violations. Each state has a disciplinary organization that monitors this and you can find each states’ lawyer disciplinary organization here.
How much does it cost to write a guardianship letter?
That depends on the lawyer. A good guide to use is the Laffey Matrix to make an estimate of how much a lawyer should cost per hour of service.
|Years of Experience||Cost ($/hour)|
|Less than 2 years||333|
|Paralegals & Law Clerks||180|
- You need a guardianship letter if you will be out of town and your children are in the care of a family member or friend.
- Without a guardianship letter, your children may not receive medial support.
- Writing your own guardianship letter yourself is risky.
- Consider hiring a family law lawyer to ensure the guardianship letter has proper legal standing.
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Disclaimer: We try our best to provide you helpful content. However, we do not offer financial, legal, or tax advice. Please speak with a professional about your personal situation.