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District of Columbia Standby Guardian Law

The standby guardian is a person named by the parent having custody of the child to assume legal custody of the child when the parent is no longer able to care for the child.  The standby guardian assumes charge of the child on the occurrence of a triggering event.  This can be either due to debilitation, incapacity or death of the parent.

The parent of a minor can nominate a person they think fit to be the guardian of the child.  This nomination can be done by way of a written document that is witnessed by two people.  The designation of the standby guardian becomes effective either when the parent signs a statement of debilitation; or an attending clinician indicates incapacity; or the parent dies.  The parent may also at any time before the standby guardian takes up the position, revoke the designation.

Generally, to assume guardianship over the ward, the standby guardian should petition the court for guardianship.  The petition filed for the purpose should include or attach the witnessed designation and should state that the parent has an incapacitating or debilitating illness that may cause the parent to be unable to care for the children.  Only the parent may file a petition for guardianship before the triggering event.  The standby guardian can within 90 days of the triggering event file the papers to initiate court process for guardianship.

The law also specifies about the consent of the non custodial parent.  Even for a parent who does not have custody of the child, notice of the standby guardian action must be given within 10 days of filing the petition.  The non-custodial parent can within 20 days of receipt of notice request a child custody hearing.

Even in case where a standby guardian is appointed, the law clearly states that the rights of the parent are not cut off by guardianship.


Inside District of Columbia Standby Guardian Law