Standby Guardianship

Illinois Standby Guardianship Explained | What is a Standby Guardian?

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article we explain standby guardianship in Illinois.  We answer the following questions: what is a standby guardianship?, what is a standby guardian?, who can become or appoint standby guardians?, do standby guardianships terminate parental rights?, how do you appoint a standby guardian in Illinois?, when do standby guardianships start and end?, do you have to disclose your illness to file for standby guardianship?, what if I change my mind about standby guardianship after the hearing?, and what if I don’t want to notify the other parent about standby guardianship?

What is standby guardianship?

Standby guardianship is a legal procedure in the state of Illinois that allows parents with serious chronic or terminal illnesses to give parental rights to another person when they can no longer adequately care for their child. Standby guardianship is different from short-term guardianship, which you can read about in our other article, Illinois Short-Term Guardianship Explained.

What is a standby guardian?

A standby guardian is someone who willingly takes over a parent’s rights. Usually, standby guardians are appointed when a parent is deceased, extremely ill, disabled, or otherwise unable to take care of a child. Standby guardians are responsible for providing a child with food, shelter, education, and medical care.

Who can become or appoint standby guardians?

Any parent with a serious chronic or terminal illness can apply for a standby guardianship, and parents can name any person who is willing to take over parental rights and is otherwise eligible to become a guardian in Illinois.

Do standby guardians terminate parental rights?

Standby guardianships do not remove the parent’s rights. The standby guardian will only take over parental rights in the event of an emergency. When a parent appoints a standby guardian, he or she still has all of the legal parental rights and responsibilities as before. The standby guardian also has the same rights and responsibilities once the standby guardianship becomes effective, almost like a two-parent family.

How to appoint a standby guardian in Illinois

In order to appoint a standby guardian, you should work with your attorney to execute a Designation of Standby Guardian form in front of two witnesses who are at least 18 years old. You can select a date, in writing, that states the start or end of the guardianship. You can also choose an event to initiate the guardianship, such as a health issue or a lifetime milestone.

Once the guardian has assumed responsibilities, he or she will have 60 days to file a petition with the court to approve the guardianship. The other parent of the child has to be notified in advance of the hearing. At the hearing, the court has to determine if you have a serious chronic or terminal illness, if the standby guardianship is in the best interests of the your child, and if the proposed standby guardian is “fit,” or financially, physically, and mentally capable of caring for your child.

Do you have to disclose your illness to file for standby guardianship?

No, you do not have to identify the illness. However, the court does have to determine whether or not you actually have a serious chronic or terminal illness, so the more information you disclose, the better.

What if I change my mind about standby guardianship after the hearing?

If you change your mind at all throughout the entire process, you have the right to remove all of the standby guardian’s parental rights at any time. Don’t worry about feeling guilty or slowing down the process. We’ll help you come to the right decision for you and your child.

Who should I choose for my child’s standby guardian?

A standby guardian should be someone both you and your child trust. The individual should be financially stable enough to take care of your child’s basic needs, including food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care. Many people appoint their own parents, cousins, or other close relatives and friends as standby guardians.

What if the standby guardian cannot or does not want to take care of my child?

If your standby guardian is unable to take care of your child, he or she won’t be able to serve. We recommend naming an alternate standby guardian, almost like a “plan B” to your original standby guardian. If something happens to your appointed standby guardian, the alternate will automatically replace him or her.

What if I don’t want to notify the other parent of a standby guardianship?

If you know how to get in touch with your child’s other parent, you are legally obligated to notify him or her of the standby guardianship. Even if the individual isn’t involved in your child’s life, you still have to let the other parent know. If the court finds out that you had a way of contacting the other parent and purposely did not, your case will likely be dismissed.

What if I have no way of contacting the other parent about standby guardianship?

If you have no possible way of contacting the other parent, then you do not have to notify him or her of the standby guardianship.

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