WHAT'S THE LAW?
How to acquire temporary guardianship
Question: I have been caring for my sister's children at least three years now, and I want to know if a temporary guardianship can be granted by a notarized letter from my sister, or do I need to go through the court system for this?
Answer: According to Maile Shimabukuro, Legal Aid attorney: The answer to your question has good news and bad news. The bad news is that no, you cannot obtain temporary "guardianship" over your sister's children via a notarized letter. Guardianships can only be granted by the Family Court. The good news is that as long as your sister has full legal custody over her children, is mentally competent and has a valid photo identification card, she can sign a Temporary Power of Attorney (TPOA) in front of a notary public granting you the power to care for her children. A TPOA would appoint you the "attorney in fact," and as such, you could authorize medical care and schooling, and be the go-between for the children and third parties, such as social service agencies, banks, etc. In essence the attorney-in-fact acts on behalf of the parents in matters involving the children. If your sister shares legal custody of the children with their father, the father should also sign the TPOA. If not, the father can override any TPOA that your sister signs. TPOAs are effective for one year at a time and can be revoked via a notarized statement by the person who signed the TPOA. It is important to note that in some cases where the children's parents are unavailable, the caretaker may sign a notarized statement through the Hawaii Department of Education which authorizes the caretaker to act on the children's behalf for educational purposes. Contact your children's public school for more information. The Legal Aid Society routinely does TPOAs for people who qualify for our services. Call 536-4302 for more information. It is important to note that a temporary power of attorney for minor children is only good for one year; each year, it would have to be renewed or the attorney in fact for the children should file a petition for guardianship.
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. For information, call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or by U.S. mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.