Guardianship of a child is a very complex matter, laden with many formalities and checks. It is usually the next step in the process of taking care of the needy child.
Caretakers can adopt this route and become legal guardians, provided they fulfil certain requirements. Additionally, they need to know about the duties of a guardian and the accompanying legal issues.
Assuming legal guardianship of a child also places a huge responsibility on the person electing to do so. This is why an informed decision needs to be made.
In this article, we will see a brief overview of guardianship, with additional helpful information for anyone wishing to become a legal guardian or appoint one.
1] What is guardianship?
A guardian is a person who takes certain decisions on behalf of a person who is unable to do so on his or her own, also known as a ward. These decisions usually concern the affected person’s life in a major way, such as food, shelter, health, finances. Education is also included if the ward is a minor.
Guardianship just extends that definition and is the process of being a guardian of a ward. It only affects people or minors who can not take care of themselves.
The duration of guardianship varies according to different cases. In case of minors, guardianship exists until the minor grows up and becomes an adult.
For people with disabilities, addictions to alcohol/drugs or diseases, it exists until the individual is treated completely, and is proven to take care of him/herself.
Guardianship is a complex issue, which should be dealt with appropriate seriousness. Consulting a family law attorney should be the first step in this direction.
They are experts in this field and can provide guidance as well as file petitions on your behalf and take care of all the documentation. Click for more information about legal guidance for guardianship of a minor child.
2] How are guardians appointed?
Guardians can be appointed in many different ways. Most decisions in this regard are made on a case by case basis. The process of appointing a guardian for minors is a bit different from that of an adult.
For children, it starts with the intent of appointing a guardian in the first place. A legal document needs to be prepared in advance, which clearly states the preference of the ward or the ward’s parents.
The parents of a child can decide to appoint a guardian for it at a very early stage. It is considered good planning, in case the inevitable happens.
Your choice of a guardian should be a person whom you trust implicitly, and who has the capability to bond with your child. The best way to do this is to create a will and name that person as a guardian in it with a proper clause.
It is good sense to have a backup; so appoint an alternate one in case the first guardian is unable to fulfil the role. This has to be done for every child you have. You can appoint anyone as the guardian, but a married couple closest in relation is the best possible choice.
Since this is a legal process, a court is involved in the final decisions. A petition needs to be filed, after which the court starts the application procedure.
Standard process involves an inspection of home premises and a criminal record check. For your child, the court reviews all the presented documents to check for any irregularities or discrepancies.
If all goes well, the next step is to decide whether the appointment of a guardian is ‘in the best interest of the child’. This is done on a case by case basis and a number of factors are involved.
If the judge finds that the documentation is in order, all checks are completed and there are no objections, he or she grants the guardianship of the child to the appropriate person(s).
A letter of explanation which states the reason for your particular choice of a guardian is a good bonus and should be added to the list of documents in the petition. Although not always necessary, the judge may question your choice and factor it in the decision.
Most states provide subsidies to caregivers who give out-of-home care for such children. They need to be appointed as legal guardians, and this usually happens without the termination of parental rights, if any.