A legal guardian (also known as a conservator in some states) is someone who has the legal power and charge to not only take care of, but also make important choices for a minor child or a disabled adult. In order to become someone’s legal guardian you would have to fill out various forms and go through multiple court hearings. In order to ensure that you have proper legal authority over someone, it is crucial that you take all of the proper steps to become a legal guardian. Afterall, your job would entail making life altering decisions for the person appointed in your care.
You need to make sure that you are at least 18 years of age or older in order to be a legal guardian and the child that you seek to acquire guardianship of should be under 18 years of age. Keep in mind that the court would definitely find out whether or not you are fully capable of taking up the responsibility of raising a child. If you are a minor yourself, you will most likely not get the legal guardianship.
What Is The Meaning Of Legal Guardianship
Legal Guardianship is when someone who is recognized as an adult by the state (older than 18 years) gains custody of a minor. A legal guardian has the authority (given to him/her by the court) to take care of a child in case anything happens to the parents. The role of a legal guardian entails taking all parental decisions and can even involve handling the child’s property and inheritance.
What Is Permanent Legal Guardianship
As far as permanent guardianship of a child is concerned, it is somewhat similar to legal guardianship. Here too, the guardian is legally responsible for the child’s overall interest including those concerning healthcare, housing, safety, and education. It is important to note that this particular kind of guardianship is usually given by the court when they believe that it is in the child’s wellbeing to live with their legal guardian, than their parents. Usually this is when the parents or parent has had a criminal record, is in jail or had substance abuse and addiction problems.
Legal Guardianship vs. Adoption
As far as providing and caring for a child is concerned as well as looking after their basic needs and requirements, both adoptive parents and legal guardians can do that. However, keep in mind that the legal aspects of each arrangement and the correct way to go about them can differ greatly. Listed below are some of extremely significant differences between adoption and guardianship:
- Parental rights: Adoption completely eradicates rights that a child’s biological or legal parents have. On the other hand, legal guardianship does not affect the legal rights of the child’s birth parents. Moreover, in adoption, the birth parents cannot even restore their parental rights as soon as the adoption is finalized with the adoptive parents who are handed all legal parental rights. However, in a legal guardianship, the biological parents do hold the right to annul the guardianship and take back their child’s custody at any point.
- Inheritance: With adoption, the inheritance rights of the child are guaranteed and the adoptive parents must make a special arrangement in their will in order to pass along the inheritance.
- Child support: In a legal guardianship, the child’s birth parents are still required to support their child financially, however, with adoption, they are free of that obligation.
- Process: Adoption requires more visits to the court and is overall a more legally complex process whereas legal guardianship of a child is fairly simple.
- Permanence: While adoption is permanent, legal guardianship is not.
Due to these distinct variations, certain situations require adoption while others require a legal guardianship and it is the court that decides which one is suitable considering the situation of the child.
Legal Guardianship Forms
Although not as taxing as adoption, legal guardianship of a child still requires a lot of legal work and filing of forms. It is essential that you have all of your documents complete. Following is a list of the various forms that you might need to fill if you want to acquire legal guardianship:
- Cover Sheet
- Confidential Information Sheet
- Petition for Appointment
- Citation to Appear and Show Cause
- Certificate of Mailing
- Parent Consent
- Child Consent (if the child is 14 years old or older)
- Order Appointing Guardian
- Notice of Entry of Order
- Letters of Guardianship
- Six Month Temporary Guardianship Agreement
- Emergency Guardianship Packet (including forms and instructions)
What Makes You Ineligible To Acquire Legal Guardianship Of A Child
The court can rule you out as not being eligible to look after a child if you fall into any one of the following categories:
- Have a criminal record or a general history of ill conduct.
- If you want to seek advantage from being the legal guardian of the ward or if you have any other conflicts of interest with the child.
- If you do not have the experience of capability to look after someone or handle important issues regarding property and other resources.
- If you do not have enough education.
- If you are underage or a disabled person yourself.
What Happens When The Child’s Parents Are Not Dead
Sometimes, a parent or parents are not dead but are still unable to perform their role as the child’s primary caregiver. The various reasons for which they cannot fill in their position can be because they are overseas, they are in the army, they are in prison, they are disabled or mentally incapacitated or they refuse responsibility. In such cases, the guardian can take place as the child’s parent.
Becoming a legal guardian is not an easy feat. You not only have to think about yourself, but also have to keep another person’s well being in mind. The guardian’s responsibilities should include decisions pertaining to health, school and education, diet, hobbies and religious practice. Moreover, they should be penned down in the guardians will or in an informal letter and should be a mirror reflection of what you want regarding the child’s upbringing.