Back to School Emergency Cards

It’s time for a new school year and that means shopping for school clothes, meeting new teachers, and filling out emergency cards.

The emergency cards can be helpful in telling the school who is authorized to pick your kids up from school if you aren’t able to be there.  And it can help to make sure that your child is not sent home with a stranger pretending to be a relative, or anyone else that you do not want to be around your children.

What these emergency cards can’t do is authorize someone to temporarily take custody of your children if a serious accident happens to you during the school day (or any other time).  if something happens to you, the authorities can only leave your kids with their legal guardian.

So what happens if there isn’t a legal guardian?  The authorities will find someone in the foster care system to take care of your kids until ‘things can be worked out’.  That means that your kids will be with strangers during this emotional and difficult time.  Not with the neighbor who knows them or the parent of their friend from school.

Most parents know they should name a guardian for their kids in their Will, but a Will only becomes meaningful after your death, and even then it may take days or weeks to find the document and get it entered with the court.  What about in the meantime?  And what if you are injured and in a hospital instead of deceased?

In Virginia, you can draft something called a ‘standby guardianship’ which tells everyone who YOU want to have custody of your children if you are not able to take care of them yourself.

This important document should be drafted by every parent and reviewed on at least an annual basis to make sure that it contains your current wishes.  There may have been a change in your life, and there may have also been a change in the life of the neighbor or friend you had named before.  You should also make sure that your babysitter knows how to find a copy of this document, and a copy should be given to the school as well as the person named in your document.

We all have busy lives and we forget to do some things.  As you are filling out the emergency cards for school this year, take a minute and review your standby guardian designation to make sure it is still valid.  And if you don’t have a standby guardian for your minor children, now is the time to get this important document!

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

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