Are you seeking legal guardianship of a minor? Click here for a go-to legal guardianship letter to use as a guide!
If you make the decision to give custody of your child to someone you trust, you need to write a guardianship letter. Most of the time, you’d give only temporary guardianship, not permanent.
If you must leave for an extended stay, you face a jail sentence or you can’t care for the child for other reasons, a temporary guardianship letter is needed.
It’s easy if you follow these simple steps.
1. Basic Information
In the letter heading, include basic details like names and addresses. The parents’ information goes first, with their full names and addresses. Then two lines down put the date the letter will be signed.
The next block is about the intended guardian, who is also the letter’s recipient. List their full name and address like you did for the parents above.
Two lines down are the subject and the greeting. The subject should say “Re:” (it stands for “Regarding”) and then “The Guardianship of” followed by the child’s full name.
The formal salutation (or greeting) is another two lines down . Use something like “To Whom It Concerns:” or “Dear Sir or Madam:”. Always follow a formal salutation with a colon (:), not a comma.
2. Statement of Consent
In the “Statement of Consent,” name yourself as the child’s current guardian and then name the person to whom you give guardianship. Include the specific dates the agreement begins and ends.
For example, “We, Amelia and Peter Earhart, are the parents of Genevieve Earhart, and we have legal custody of her. This legal document authorizes Hiram Earhart, her grandfather, to serve as temporary legal guardian of Genevieve from March 2, 2019, to April 14, 2019.”
You won’t need to list anything like how much child support you agree to. With a temporary guardianship, it isn’t usual for there to be an exchange of money.
3. Grant Powers to Guardian
Next, you grant certain powers to the guardian. Be very specific about what they’re allowed to do while they care for your child. Include situations you hope don’t happen, like emergencies.
Here is an example:
“In the event of an emergency, we grant permission for him/her to make decisions about medical, dental, educational and recreational circumstances for our child. Our child will travel and live with the guardian during this period.”
If you don’t want the guardian to do all these things for your child, tweak the language to include or exclude your specific concerns.
You could write, “Make decisions about x-rays and blood tests,” if you don’t want to grant permission for all medical decisions. Or that your child will live with the guardian but doesn’t have permission to travel if they leave the state. Make sure to include all your concerns.
Decide whether you want to let the temporary guardian to transfer guardianship to someone else if it becomes necessary. If you do, include a sentence to grant them that power. For example: “If it becomes necessary, Hiram Earhart has permission to transfer temporary guardianship to another suitable guardian until he is fit to resume care of Genevieve.”
If you are a single parent, change the language to reflect your status. Instead of “we” or “us,” write “I” and “me.”
4. Describe Your Absence
If you like, you can include why you must grant temporary guardianship. For example, “Amelia and Peter Earhart will treat children with dental disease in southwest Australia during this time. They won’t be reachable except by the methods below, which are too slow for them to make expedient decisions.”
You can choose to leave this part out. If the parent will be in jail or away for other personal reasons, this explanation is not required. You can skip to the last part of the letter.
5. Provide Contact Details
Provide the contact information for yourself. Include as much detail about your location and contact methods as you can. Include the address and phone number to where you’ll stay, the contact information for someone else who can reach you, and anything else you consider relevant.
Be specific about how to contact your child’s professional care providers. This can include medical doctors, psychiatrists or therapists, dentists, teachers, coaches, etc.
Here’s an example: “The child’s doctor is Dr. William Morris, Family Medical Practice, 12345 Main Street, Omaha, NE, 800-999-9999.” Include this format each time you add a care provider.
If you like, send copies of the letter to the professionals you list so they know the arrangement. In an emergency, the guardian won’t spend as much time explaining. This isn’t required, though.
When you included everything above, you’re ready to end the guardianship letter. Include a formal valediction or closing on a new line. Then skip some lines where you’ll put your signature, and type your name or names. A good formal valediction is, “Sincerely.” Other warmer closings may not be appropriate for a legal document.
6. Get Letter Notarized
This final step is very important. To be legally binding, the guardianship letter must be approved by a court authority or bear the signature of a notary.
Beneath the space for your signature include, for example, “On this day [insert date of signing here], Amelia and Peter Earhart personally appeared before me, and in my presence, identified themselves as signers of this letter.” Then on a new line leave a blank space for them to print their name.
On the next line, include a blank space for them to sign their name and date the signature. They’ll also need a small space to stamp their notary seal.
If you have a notary sign it, do not sign the letter until they witness you doing it. Take ID with you so they know you’re who you say you are. Notaries can lose their licenses if they don’t verify your identity.
Seeking Legal Advice
When you follow these steps, you’ll have a guardianship letter that’s complete and ready to send. Check to assure you included the basic information, the parties to the agreement, the powers granted, contact information and the notary block.
Consult an attorney if drafting your own letter seems daunting. Getting help with formal arrangements is always a good idea.