Guardianship

Guardianship

Overview

The court will order a Guardianship when an adult that is not the parent of the minor child is granted custody of the child, granted control of the child’s property, or both.  If the child is residing with an adult who is not that child’s parent, or a child protective order has been issued, then a guardian will be appointed for the child. A guardianship differs from an adoption because the parents still maintain parental rights, a guardianship is often court-supervised, and the parents can request that the guardianship be terminated if they can demonstrate that they are able to provide for the child’s care and wellbeing.

Guardianship of the Person

If a guardianship of the person is ordered, then the guardian will be responsible for caring for the child in the same manner expected of the child’s parent.  This means that the guardian maintains physical and legal custody of the child, and can make all decisions pertaining to the child’s care and wellbeing.  Under a guardianship order, the guardian is required to provide the child with food, shelter and clothing, safety and protection, emotional and physical support, healthcare, and education.  The guardian is also responsible for supervising the child, and can be held liable for any intentional damage caused by the child.

A guardianship is often ordered when one or both parents are unable to care for the child due to mental illness, substance abuse problems, or incarceration.  A guardianship can also be ordered if the parent is stationed overseas as part of their enlistment in the US military or has checked themselves into a rehabilitation program for alcohol and/or substance abuse.

The courts will also defer to the best interests of the child when deciding whether to order a guardianship.  Among the factors taken into consideration by the court are the child’s need to be part of a stable, safe, and loving environment, and the parents’ ability or inability to provide for the basic needs of the child.  Unless otherwise modified or terminated by the court, a guardianship remains in effect until the child reaches the age of 18, is emancipated by the courts, is married or enlists in the US military.

Estate Guardianship

When a child has income or property that must be managed until the child reaches the age of 18, the courts may issue a guardianship for that child’s assets.  An estate guardianship is most common in cases where a minor child has inherited money or assets, and the court commonly appoints one of the child’s surviving parents as the guardian of that child’s estate.

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