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Understanding Arkansas standby guardianships

In many American states, including Arkansas, state guardianship laws have been changed in order to accommodate the needs of children when their parents are seriously ill or incapacitated. The initial trigger for passing the standby guardianship law was to help children whose parents contracted HIV/AIDS. However, standby guardians are now being used by parents who are suffering from other terminal diseases, such as cancer. Standby guardianship ensures that the emotional and psychological health of a child is protected when a parent is unable to fulfill parental duties.

Parental rights have been respected in the 29 states where standby guardianship laws have been adopted. Its aim is to provide a permanent custody arrangement for a child and gradually turn over custody to the guardian. In the states where standby guardianship has been adopted, some obstacles remain that have prevented complete utilization.

There are reasons for this. There has been an increase in the number of young women with HIV/AIDS and as their life expectancy has improved, they are no longer prioritizing custody arrangement. Also, a non-custodial parent is usually asked to appoint a standby guardian and this arrangement may not be readily acceptable to the custodial parent. And oftentimes scarce resources make custody planning very difficult.

However, some of these obstacles can be removed. In a bid to promote the well-being of the child, states may pass legislation to ensure permanent guardianship for these children. The states may also design statutes that keep the best interest of the child in mind in order to ensure that both parents and the guardian’s responsibilities are clearly outlined. These states also need to produce legal papers that can be easily understood by the parents.

Source:, “Standby Guardianship,” accessed on Nov. 25, 2014

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