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What Is Temporary Guardianship?

A court-appointed guardian ad litem works with and advocates for abused children who are involved in court proceedings.
A foster parent may have temporary guardianship of a child if the child's mother is deemed to be mentally unstable.
Temporary guardianship of a child might be granted to prevent homelessness.
A guardian may have temporary custody of a child until a permanent arrangement is established.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2014
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Temporary guardianship is a brief assumption of control over another person, usually for the purpose of making decisions in the person’s best interest. Depending on the type of guardianship, these decisions could be of a financial nature, concern medical details, or be restricted to representation in legal settings (guardian ad litem). Temporary or permanent guardianship is often thought of in context of children, but there are instances where it may be required for adults who suffer from mental incapacities or have a condition that has caused a temporary incapacity. Sometimes a temporary guardian of an adult is called a conservator.

When full temporary guardianship is assumed over children, the guardian is essentially empowered to make decisions for the child and might reside with that child in the same home. There are many instances when courts must make a decision to grant this status. The absence of a parent or a parent’s incapacity could mean that courts have to find someone to temporarily act as guardian for a child, either until the parent returns or a permanent guardian can be found. Specific rules on procedure are governed by region.

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Someone like a foster parent might have temporary guardianship of a child, or sometimes social workers hold this responsibility. Occasionally, relatives or others who will receive full guardianship of a child eventually are first granted temporary guardianship, which is later converted. Any state may possess the rights to make decisions about a child who doesn't have parents, but they usually pass decision-making and guardianship duties onto others, such as social workers, foster parents, friends or relatives, either on a permanent or temporary basis.

Special cases exist during custody battles or with alleged child abuse charges, where a legal representative may be appointed as guardian ad litem to children. In these settings, the guardian doesn’t possess decision-making rights over all aspects of the child’s condition, and instead, only serves to represent his or her best interests in court. The guardian ad litem may share temporary custody with others who do have rights equivalent to parental rights.

Permanent or temporary guardianship or conservatorship of adults might be sought for a number of reasons. One common reason is that a person has become seriously ill and is unable to make medical or financial decisions. The illness could have an expected time of recovery, so only temporary control is needed to help the person. In legal settings, where a person is mentally incapacitated and has no permanent guardian, a court-appointed temporary guardian might help make decisions on legal matters. Sometimes a person with incapacitation loses a permanent guardian, in which case, courts may need to assign temporary guardianship until a more permanent guardian can be found.

The methods for assuming temporary guardianship of anyone depend very much on regional law. Many times the state is empowered to assign this status if there exists concern about the present way a person is receiving care. In other instances, people must apply to receive this status. Legal assistance at these times is invaluable.

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