Formalising temporary child custody

In some situations, you may need a friend or family member to take on temporary guardianship of your child, such as when you are undergoing long medical treatment or need to go to jail. It can be a good idea to formalise your custody arrangements in order to ensure that your child is safe and that their guardian can make appropriate medical and practical decisions for your child. 

Here are the steps to take. 

Meet with a family lawyer

It's important to get advice on the best way to structure your custody arrangement. This can include making the arrangement open dated, limited to a specific date (such as the child coming of age) or limited to a certain point (such as being released from prison). This can give everyone some stability about how long the arrangement will continue. You can specify certain issues in the custody agreement, such as the child remaining at the same school or staying in the family house to retain some security, as well as any regular contact between you and the child. 

You can also decide if you will give other support such as financial support over that time. By formalising the custody arrangement the guardians will be able to access government benefits and payments, if they are eligible, for the care of your child as well. 

Allow your guardian to also meet with a lawyer

It is also a good idea to make sure that the person you are asking to be the guardian of your children also has a chance to meet with a lawyer to ask any questions that may be concerning them. You can often get a lawyer through a not-for-profit agency if this is difficult for both parties to afford. 

They may also need to think about some other issues such as how to manage their obligations to other children or how to organise an alternate guardian if something happens when they are caring for your child. The lawyer can help them to manage these issues and work through any subsequent paperwork that they require. 

It is a good idea to organise a formal custody agreement if you need someone else to look after your child for an extended period. This allows the person who is looking after your child to access government benefits and make appropriate urgent decisions for your child. An experienced family lawyer can help you to document appropriate paperwork to give everyone some security about the arrangement.