As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, especially so when parents are not able to provide the care their child needs. Medical emergencies, parental substance abuse, untreated mental illness, or domestic violence or other abuse in the home are often what leads family members to take a grandchild, niece or nephew, or other family member in, sometimes on an on-again, off-again basis.
While many of these arrangements are informal, there may be a time when a relative wants to explore a more formal or legal arrangement so they can act on a child’s behalf. Under Wisconsin law, there are four types of guardianship relatives might wish to pursue depending on the circumstances:
Emergency guardianship grants a guardian short term – up to 60 days – authority to make the necessary decisions to resolve an emergency such as a child’s need for medical or emergency care when the parent cannot be reached for consent.
Temporary guardianship is granted when a parent is unable to care for, provide custody, or control a minor child for a temporary period of up to 6 months (180 days) and may be extended another 180 days for good cause. Temporary custody may be awarded in circumstances such as parent incarceration or when a parent is undergoing medical treatment or other circumstances where temporary guardianship is necessary.
Limited guardianship comes into play when a parent needs help caring for child. Limited guardianship is as its name implies – limited to a period of time and decision making abilities. Limited guardianship often entails shared physical custody between a parent and guardian, spelling out what decisions a guardian can make and what decision making powers a parent will retain. What this looks like in practice is along the lines of a grandparent following a child’s established routine, making decisions related to school or taking a child for an annual checkup while the parent reserves the right to make more consequential decisions. When the period of limited guardianship is over, the parent resumes sole responsibility for the child.
Full guardianship grants the guardian full legal authority to make decisions for the child if the parents are unfit, unwilling or unable to care for the child or there are other compelling facts to consider. Situations where full guardianship is awarded may include the death of a parent or child abandonment and certainly may come into play when temporary guardianship has failed. Full guardianship means that the legal duties, rights and responsibilities of the parent are transferred to the guardian.
When you are caring for a minor child and would like more information regarding legal guardianship, contact our Wisconsin guardianship attorneys at (414) 210-3135 for a free consultation.