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A guardianship form will be used by the parents or current guardians of a child to list who will care for the child in the event that they become unable to do so, either temporarily or permanently.

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What is a Guardianship Form? 

A guardianship form is a set of court forms often used in the case of a medical illness, accident, or death. The form is used to determine who will care for a minor child or mentally incompetent adult. However, that's not its only use. They’re also used if a parent can no longer care for their child for some reason. For example, if an active duty member of the military was sent overseas, they may use a temporary guardianship agreement to temporarily grant authority to another person to take care of their child during their absence.

These forms may vary from state to state. However, they will all require some basic information. The names of the current parents or guardians must be included, as well as the name of the child or ward. The names of the supplemental, temporary, or other potential guardians must also be included. You should speak to the person you are listing on the form to ensure they are comfortable accepting guardianship of the children. These forms are considered to be part of family law although in many areas, it is the probate court that oversees these matters. The names of the forms are usually:

  • Petition for Appointment of Guardian (or Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor)
  • Petition for Conservatorship (when dealing with an incompetent adult)
  • Order Appointing Guardian
  • Letters of Guardianship

What are the Components of a Guardianship Form? 

A guardianship and conservatorship forms are important legal documents. Think about it: what if something happens to you? What if you get sick and are unable to care for your dependents or manage your assets? It's a nasty subject, we know, but it can happen. If it does, you must be sure your loved ones are left in the best possible hands. This is why it's important you have the proper document template before it may be needed. It will save you and your loved ones time and stress in the case of an emergency. Without one, family court or probate court would get involved and name a guardian that you may not want.

Of course, you can go to a lawyer who works with guardianship cases and pay to have the forms drafted or get legal advice to guide you through the process.  A free guardianship template is a low-cost solution for temporary or permanent guardianship. It's a fairly simple document, although it’s important for you to make sure that it complies with state law and any rules of your state court. The major components of these forms are:

Identify Everyone Involved

This includes the dependents, yourself (or whomever is creating this agreement - we're assuming it's you), and the guardian(s) you’re appointing. This section should include the full legal names, as well as information about the assets and/or the dependents' date(s) of birth and gender(s). It should also include the guardian's address, contact information, and relationship to the dependent(s).

Dates

This is a detail that can only be provided when the time comes. It’s not always certain when a form like this will be needed. Your documents should specify the time period during which your appointed guardian has guardianship duties. This is particularly important if the situation is temporary. Be sure to check your state laws, too. Maximum guardianship times vary from state to state. This date will be listed in the order appointing temporary guardian or permanent guardian.

Guardian Responsibilities

What CAN'T the Guardian Do?

  • To make things completely clear, provide information about the guardian's limitations. For example, can the guardian make decisions as regards all medications, including ones for mental illness? Describe any limitations in detail. The guardian needs to know their limits.

Witnesses, Signatures, and Notarization

The need for witnesses, signatures, and notarization may vary from state to state. However, almost every state requires at least one witness who is not a party to the matter as well as for the document to be notarized. The form must also be signed and dated by the appointed guardian.

Adult Guardianship Forms

Forms for adults are a bit different than those used for minor guardianship. The reason for this is because adults must be proven incompetent and unable to make their own decisions. This is always done in front of a judge. Adult guardianship documents must explain to the judge why the person needs a guardian (for example, serious developmental disability), why you should be named a guardian, and who may need to know that you’re being appointed as a guardian.

Every state has their own laws that determine the name of the documents to file with the court. There’s also a fee that must be paid. One of the best things you can do to make sure that you get the right forms for adult guardianship is to visit the website for your state’s legal aid office or the self-help section of your county court's website. Most of them provide free adult guardianship documents you can use. Then, you would complete the forms, make copies, and file them with the court. Remember that you’ll need to pay your filing fee.

Child Guardianship Forms

Child guardianship documents can be completed with or without parent consent. Common times the parent would consent may include, but aren’t limited to, the parent is going overseas for military service, the child is a citizen and their parent is undocumented and being deported, when the parent has a serious illness and cannot care for the child, or if the parent is facing jail time. Guardianship must still be approved by the court in many cases. It can be considered short-term (for a period that is six months or less) or long-term (longer than six months).

For short-term guardianships, you can generally draft temporary guardianship documents and have them notarized. Court isn’t necessarily required. Make sure that the parent and the guardian has at least two copies of the signed forms. If the child is older than 14 years, they may be required to sign the agreement as well.

For guardianship that is long-term or without the consent of the parents, court is almost always a necessity. The guardianship papers must be filed with the court and a hearing date will be set. The relatives of the child (usually the parents) must be served with a notice of hearing. The child and the nominated guardians must appear for the hearing. If guardianship is granted, there are other forms that must be completed.

Check your state’s legal aid website to get more information and documents for child guardianship. This is the best way you can get low cost help with the process. If you’re required to go to court, you will still need to pay a filing fee.  

The Co-Parenting Legal Guide

By FormSwift Editorial Team
June 7, 2018

Co-parenting can be challenging, but it's often what's best for the children. Some of the benefits that children see from co-parenting include feelings of security and stability, as well as a good understanding of cooperation and problem solving because they see their parents work together. If you're ready to reap these benefits for your children, consider these tips on effective co-parenting.

When Co-Parenting Works and Doesn't Work

Co-parenting works better for some parents than others. For example, it works best when the parents live near each other and can cooperate enough to avoid fighting in front of the children. Co-parenting doesn't work as well when the parents live far apart or put the children in the middle of their arguments. Parents who are willing to work on these issues together may have a chance of co-parenting successfully.

Tips for Communication Between Co-Parents

If you're having trouble co-parenting, learn to separate your feelings from your actions.  Even if you're angry, avoid showing that through your words or body language. Never use your child as a messenger between you and your ex. If you can't communicate without getting upset, use email or text messages to talk to the other parent. Using Google Calendar and giving your children a notebook with any important information to share with your ex can also help keep you on the same page.

Basic Do's and Don'ts

Some of the most important "do's" include trusting your ex as a parent and being civil and reasonable. Scheduling appointments to talk about any problems and making clear rules and schedules can help with this. Don't overreact or use abrasive words. Don't assume that your ex will be okay with any plans you make without first talking about it.

Co-Parenting Tips for Decision Making

For co-parenting success, start with being consistent with the rules between both households. Be sure you're on the same page for discipline, too. The schedule at both houses should be similar as well.

It's equally important to have a system for dealing with the medical needs of the child. If you're both entitled to receive information about the children's health, you should communicate before making medical decisions. Use the same system for educational needs. Talk to your ex before making decisions regarding clubs, sports, or school events.

Financial decision making should also go smoothly. Set a reasonable budget for the children and keep records of shared and reimbursable expenses.

Finally, consider setting rules for you and your ex regarding introducing your new romantic partners, making travel plans, and consuming alcohol with the children in your care.

Issues That Co-Parents Might Face with Children

Even when both parents make an effort to co-parent, issues might come up that you must solve together. For example, some children decide they don't want to visit with the non-custodial parent. This may be because they don't want to spend less time with their custodial parent, don't feel the non-custodial parent is involved enough, or they simply don't want to miss a social event by traveling to the other house. When this occurs, go with the flow, making sure to put the child's best interests above your own feelings. If you have a custody and visitation order in place, make sure that you follow it. If you feel it no longer reflects the wishes of your child or meets their needs, talk with your ex to discuss the possibility of modifying it.

How to Discuss Divorce and Co-Parenting with Children

If you want to talk to your children about the divorce, separation, or break-up, be honest and supportive. Make sure that they know they're not to blame and get counseling for them, if necessary. Don't bad mouth the other parent and do not discuss child support issues with them. You should also ensure the children know the visitation schedule and don't change it without consulting them and the other parent.

In addition, keep the children's ages in mind when considering their reactions to divorce. For example, babies need consistency, while toddlers need consistency and patience. Younger children might act out or be angry. Be consistent with them and support their interests. Older children might align more with one parent, but you should encourage them to love and respect both. Finally, teenagers prefer to spend time with friends over family, so keep their social interests in mind as they go from one house to the other.

Tips for Mothers

Be the best parent you can be. You should also avoid assuming anything about your ex. Instead, get out any frustration you feel by exercising, socializing, or getting therapy. Do not use your children as a spy or as a messenger.

Tips for Fathers

It is important as a co-parenting father to optimize the amount of time that you have with your children. For most fathers, 50% of custody is a good goal. However, various scenarios might make this percentage lower or higher. Fathers with shared custody are generally closer to their children. In addition, researcher Margaret Little says co-parenting fathers are "more likely than nonresidential fathers to share in decision making about their children and to be satisfied with the legal and physical custody arrangements."

Do not talk badly about their mother in front of them or to them. Do not use your children as a spy or as a messenger.

Tips for Both Parents

Now that you're working hard to co-parent, it's important to make sure your legal forms are always up to date and accurate. Single mothers and fathers should revisit the following forms post divorce:

  • Last will and testament
  • Name change document
  • Guardianship documents, including child custody agreements
  • Tax forms
Sources:
https://www.helpguide.org/articles/family-divorce/co-parenting-tips-for-divorced-parents.htm
http://www.divorcemag.com/region/ca
https://www.familyeducation.com/life/legal-fees/understanding-divorce-lawyers-fees
https://www.familyeducation.com/life/how-divorce-affects-children/when-children-fight-visitation
https://www.afccnet.org/Portals/0/PDF/AzAFCC%20Coparenting%20Communication%20Guide.pdf
http://familyaffairs.org/links/coparenting%20-%20tx%20atty%20gen.pdf
http://thecoparentingtoolkit.com/PDF/ToolkitLookInside.pdf
http://www.divorcemag.com/articles/co-parenting-communication
http://thesuccessfulsinglemom.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-co-parenting-cheat-sheet.html
http://www.fathers.com/s5-your-situation/c18-divorced-dad/rj-jaramillo/
https://mrdad.com/faq/co-parenting-and-sharing-custody/

More Resources

http://www.familylawselfhelpcenter.org/self-help/guardianship/guardianship-forms  

Download a PDF or Word Template

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