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Understanding the four types of Wisconsin guardianships

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2023 | Custody and Parenting Time |

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed the 2019 Wisconsin Act 109 into law on February 28, 2020. The law expanded the types of guardianships available for Wisconsin families and children.

What is a child guardianship?

Guardianships are a legal arrangement that involves the care and well-being of a child. A guardianship gives a person or entity who isn’t the child’s adoptive or biological parent the right to make decisions on the child’s behalf. Wisconsin Statute 48.9795 establishes four types of guardianship for Wisconsin residents.


An emergency guardianship lasts for no more than two months, and the guardian doesn’t have full authority over the child. In this situation, the guardian can only do things directly related to the cause of the guardianship.

For example, the guardian can’t make medical decisions for the child unless the guardianship is related to a medical issue. The person making the petition must also show and prove that the child requires an emergency guardian immediately.


A temporary guardianship can last for up to 180 days. An extension is possible if there’s a good reason. The person requesting this guardianship must show that the child’s parent is temporarily incapable of providing and caring for the child. The parent has up to 180 days to rectify the situation. If there’s no improvement within 180 days, the guardian can request an extension.


A limited guardianship gives the guardian limited rights concerning the child. It’s usually a situation in which the parent is able to provide for the child but needs help to do so. The parent and the person asking for the guardianship will decide which rights remain with the parent and which rights transfer to the guardian.

A limited guardianship expires on a date the court determines. However, an extension is possible for a good reason.


Full guardianship is possible if the child doesn’t have any parent who is able and willing to provide care. This type of guardianship remains active until the child becomes a legal adult.

Some reasons for full guardianship include the death of one or both parents, mental illness present in one or both parents, child abuse, and abandonment. Alcoholism, drug abuse and imprisonment can also require full guardianship.

The child’s best interest is the first consideration in a child guardianship case. When seeking guardianship of a child, determine which arrangement is best for the situation.