A standby guardianship is a legal arrangement approved by a judge that allows a parent or guardian to appoint someone as “stand by” legal guardian of his or her child, until needed. The standby guardian does not take custody of children immediately, but at some point in the future when the parent or guardian is no longer able to take care of the children. In the state of Virginia, a qualified parent may petition the juvenile court to approve a standby guardian for the child. According to law, a ‘’qualified parent’’ means a parent who has been diagnosed by a licensed physician to be afflicted with a progressive or chronic condition caused by injury, disease, or illness from which, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, the patient cannot recover. Any person other than the child’s custodial parent who files a petition for standby guardianship should obtain the parent’s consent.
The court may approve a person as standby guardian for a child of a qualified parent upon the happening of a specific triggering event. The petition for standby guardianship has to be filed with the name and address of the petitioner, and his or her relationship to the child along with the name and address of the child’s qualified parent, and the name and address of any other parent of the child whose identity and whereabouts are known to the petitioner. The petition should also contain the name, address, and birth date of the child, and the proposed triggering event. In the petition, the petitioner should disclose whether a determination of incompetence or debilitation has been made, or whether there is a significant risk that the parent will imminently become physically or mentally incapable of caring for the child or die as the result of a progressive chronic condition or illness. The name and address of the proposed standby guardian and any known reasons as to why the child’s other parent is not assuming or should not assume the responsibilities of a standby guardian should also be furnished.
A standby guardian can also be named by a parent by executing a written designation at any time. Children above the age of 12 must be notified of any hearing.