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Hi! I'm Heather. I've been a practicing attorney for the last 15 years, and I'd be happy to assist you for informational and educational purposes.
Is this for a guardianship?
It sounds like you are not the parent at all? Normally that is done as a guardianship. To help, I need to know how you got custody when you are not the parent.
So was the state involved, because it was an abuse/neglect type case?
IF it was just mutual agreement, then you are free to relinquish custody to her. When it goes back to court, if the parents do not agree on her being the custodial parent, she might or might not be awarded custody. Until she gets a court order awarding her custody, she'll be on shaky footing, because she doesn't have physical custody until the court orders it.
Whatever you do won't really be official. You can sign a paper you prepare that states you are relinquishing physical custody to the mother, and that might help her if she has any problems after you leave.
The judge wouldn't order you to keep physical custody if you don't want it anymore. The thing is, if a person says I don't want custody, then it would be bad for the child to stay with that person, so the judge is risking the child's well-being. Does that make sense?
I don't see how you could be penalized. People relinquish custody all the time. If you decided later that you wanted to step back in and get custody, and you decided that the mom was not good, you would not automatically be entitled to custody, but that's the only way I see that you would be "penalized."