Appointing a Standby Guardian for a Child

A standby guardian is a person who is given temporary authority to care for another person’s minor child, while the parent or legal guardian is still alive. The purpose of naming a standby guardian is to ensure that the child is able to receive immediate care from a trusted person if a specific event happens. When a standby guardian is appointed, the parent or legal guardian still keeps “full parental, guardianship, custodial or caretaker rights.” The parent or legal guardian can also cancel or revoke the standby guardianship at any time.

A parent or legal guardian may want to assign a standby guardian, if they anticipate that they will be unable to care for their child in the future due to a triggering event. The following are examples of triggering events that legally allow a parent or legal guardian to name a standby guardian:

  • the parent is arrested, detained, incarcerated, deported, or anticipates being deported (also known as "Administrative Separation")
  • a doctor indicates that the parent has a mental impairment that may affect their ability to make decisions regarding the care of their child (also known as "Incapacity")
  • a doctor indicates that the parent has a terminal illness and may not be able to care for the child in the future (also known as "Debilitation")
  • the parent, a legal guardian, a legal custodian, or primary caretaker works or volunteers in a health care facility or reasonably believes that they may otherwise be exposed to COVID-19

To have a standby guardian appointed for a child, the parent or legal guardian must:

  • Sign and complete a Designation of Standby Guardian form. This form allows the parent to indicate whether they want the named standby guardian(s) to be the guardian of their child’s person, property or both. It also allows the parent to choose one or several persons to act as standby guardians, in order of preference, just in case a named standby guardian is unable to assume responsibility when the triggering event occurs.
  • Have two adults sign the Designation of Standby Guardian form, as witnesses. These two adults must be different from the people named as standby guardian(s).
  • File the Petition for Appointment of a Standby Guardian form along with the Designation of Standby Guardian form in either Surrogate Court or Family Court.

If the parent chooses to pursue the appointment of a Standby Guardian through Surrogate Court, they can download a Designation of Standby Guardian form by visiting Guardianship Forms. To have a Standby Guardian appointed in Family Court, the parent should contact their local Family Court to obtain copies of the Standby Guardian forms used in that court.

Note: For a standby guardian appointment to be legally valid, a judge must approve of the guardianship before the triggering event happens.

If a judge approves the standby guardian and the triggering event happens, the standby guardian can begin serving automatically. However, they must submit proof of the triggering event to the court within 90 days.

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