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Standby guardianship: 1 more option for same-sex parents

The legalization of same-sex marriage in Minnesota has led to countless joyful unions, but it's also produced a dizzying amount of legal questions, particularly for couples with children. Many people with sons or daughters from a previous relationship may be wondering what options exist for protecting the bond between their children and the non-biological parent.

Some blended families may opt for adoption, a process often recommended by family law attorneys. But for those who don't feel ready to take that step yet still want to establish a legally binding relationship between the non-biological parent and child, there is standby guardianship. 

This arrangement enables a biological parent to designate a partner or other adult to assume parenting duties in the event of death, serious illness or any other situation in which the birth parent can no longer care for the child. Naming the stepparent as the standby custodian allows him or her to make major decisions about a child's education, medical care or other legal matters in that situation.   

To name a standby custodian, a parent files a form with the county where they live. The form may ask for circumstances that would warrant the prospective guardian to assume that role, such as death or illness.  The child's other biological parent must provide consent to the guardianship, though it's possible to override a lack of consent through a petition if there's a compelling argument for the stepparent to assume the role of primary guardian.  

A standby guardianship may be suitable in situations where the child's other biological parent is still in the child's life, but does not have primary custody or lives in another state. In some cases children may be close to both of their birth parents, but would want to continue living with the stepparent if the unthinkable were to happen to their mother or father. 

As with any major legal decision that affects your family, it's usually a good idea to discuss your options with an attorney who is experienced, knowledgeable and sensitive about same-sex family law matters. 

Source: Outfront Minnesota, "Legal Issues for Same-Sex Parents," accessed Sept. 17, 2014

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