There are certain circumstances when an adult other than the parent is responsible for the well-being and care of a child. In those cases, the adult will become the legal guardian and is then taking on the same legal rights and responsibilities as a biological parent would. This means that the legal guardian is now granted to make certain decisions such as where the child will live, which health-care it receives and what school it will go to.
Responsibilities and rights of legal guardians
- Health care
- Social services
- Financial support
- Armed services
- Drivers’ license
- Child’s misconduct
- Other responsibilities
Guardianship vs. adoption
Guardianship usually lasts until the child becomes an adult at age 18. Adoption, on the other hand is a final change of guardians, while the court can end a guardianship or appoint a new guardian under given circumstances. At the same time, the court can grant visitation rights with the parents as part of the guardianship.
Guardianship is generally different form adoption, as it does not cut off the ties to the child’s parents forever. Guardianship temporarily changes the custody of the child but the child and the parents are still legally related. Simultaneously, the parents also still have a legal responsibility to support the child financially.
Are you currently seeking legal guardianship of a child? If so, contact one of our
child support attorneys that has knowledge with legal guardianship in your
Appointing legal guardians
- Even though the jurisdiction concerning legal guardianship varies from state to state, there are several common steps involved that every court follows:
- Usually, the adult that wishes to become the legal guardian for a child files a petition with the probate court where the allegedly legally incapacitated person lives. The petitioner then provides evidence of the current parent/guardian’s incapacity and requests guardianship for his/herself.
- The court then evaluates the validity of these claims of legal incapacity and sometimes appoints a person who can report to the court on behalf of the allegedly incapacitated person. During a meeting with the allegedly incapacitated person, he/she will be informed of his/her legal rights and any wishes or comments will be reported back to the court. In order to fully assess the person’s capacity health care providers or doctors may be consulted in order to evaluate the allegedly incapacitated person.
- In case the allegedly incapacitated person contests, there will be a trial in which a judge will decided whether there was enough evidence to fully prove incapacity. If the person is not able to afford the costs of the trial, he/she is entitled to an appointed counsel.
- In case of consent or if the person is incapable of responding to inquiries there will be a hearing and witnesses provide testimony in order to support the allegations in petition. If there is enough evidence, the guardian will be appointed legal guardianship over the child.
- The last step, depending on the evidence, will be either the dismissal of the trial or granting guardianship. The judge will then issue all the legal documents (letters of authority) and the new guardian will then be able to act on behalf of the legally incapacitated person.
Children need stable and permanent homes. Sometimes the biological parents are not capable of caring for their children and it is then always sad if children have to part from their parents. However, in certain cases this is simply the better solution. If this doesn’t seem to be evident in the present, for the long term children are better cared for in stable and nurturing households.
If you have any questions regarding legal guardianship or if you would like to take on a guardianship for an unfortunate child, contact us. Our attorneys specialize in child support cases and can provide important information that might be applicable to your case. For any questions or assistance, feel free to contact our child support attorneys for assistance with your legal guardianship case.