Guardianship is a sub-set of custody. Often, a third party just needs to obtain guardianship for health and/or educational purposes. This is less intrusive than custody.
For example, guardianship is necessary to obtain medical treatment for a child. A medical provider may make exceptions in emergencies or for particular clients, but generally will require a child's parent or court appointed guardian to sign for medical treatment. Often a third party will need to bring a parent to the doctor's office to obtain treatment for the child if guardianship has not been granted.
Most schools require custody to enroll a minor child. In order to enroll a child, look into a kinship care arrangement.
Guardianship is not necessary to obtain social service benefits, such as welfare payments or Medical Assistance where the third party is a blood relative to the minor child and the child is living with them. Guardianship does not qualify a child to receive social security benefits in the event of the guardian's death.
In order to obtain guardianship over a minor child, a third party should file a petition for guardianship in the name of the minor child. Guradianship forms and instructions can be found on the Maryland Courts, Department of Family Law Administration website. Read the Rule: MD Rules 10-201, 10-203, 10-205
Commonly Asked Guardianship Questions
Q: What if the third party does not know who the minor child's father is?
A: Where the identity of the father is unknown, the third party my file a motion asking the court to waive the notice requirement. The third party will have to provide proof of efforts to locate the father. In this case, the court may allow service by posting or publication.
Q: What if the third party can't find the child's parents?
A: Where the identity of the parents is unknown, the third party my file a motion asking the court to waive the notice requirement. The third party will have to provide proof of efforts to locate the parents. In this case, the court may allow service by posting or publication.
Q: Can a third party receive a welfare check for a child they are caring for without custody or guardianship?
A: A blood relative who is caring for a child can receive social services for a child with or without custody or guardianship. An unrelated person cannot receive social services even with guardianship. The unrelated person will need to petition for full custody.
Q: If Social Services issues a welfare check to a third party, does that mean the third party has guardianship or custody?
A: No, social services cannot grant guardianship or custody.
Q: How can a custody or guardianship be terminated?
A: A court order must be entered modifying or terminating the prior order. The parties can file a consent to the termination or the court can enter the order after a hearing.