There is a certain legal document that is often frequently overlooked. Most people are ignorant to its importance, and most lawyers do not discuss it. The document is called the temporary guardianship/custody form and associated copy of a minor’s insurance card.
Temporary guardianship is when a person (or couple) is designated with the care of a child for a specified period of time. In most cases, it is the grandparents who are granted temporary guardianship of their grandchild.
When it comes to health-related matters specific to the child, grandparents do not have the authority to request healthcare services for a minor without the parents’ consent; such consent can be obtained via an executed temporary guardianship/custody agreement. If you are granted temporary guardianship for those times that you care for your grandchild, then also remember to obtain a copy of all health, dental, and vision insurance cards as they pertain to the child.
To stress the importance of being granted temporary guardianship, consider the following scenario: You are a grandparent babysitting your grandchild, and the child is injured under your supervision. You call emergency medical care services, who arrive to provide medical aid to the child. The emergency care personnel will provide life-saving services, but they will not provide care that goes beyond stabilizing the child. Despite the long-term health implications to the child, without the legal guardians’ permission, emergency care personnel will likely not provide the required medical attention necessary to prevent permanent damage to the child.
In reality, it would be wise to obtain a temporary guardianship agreement every time you care for the child unaccompanied by the parents, but practically speaking, it may be best to obtain the agreement any time the child overnights under your supervision (or longer). Another determining factor on whether to obtain a temporary guardianship agreement is the availability of the parents should they need to be contacted. In the case of an emergency, if a healthcare professional is able to talk with a parent of a child who requires medical attention, then they will proceed with providing the necessary medical care.
Temporary custody of a minor usually spans for approximately 6 months (or less). Each state has specific rules on how to establish short-term custody and for how long. It would be smart to confer with legal counsel if you feel that your situation may require temporary guardianship.