Even though it does not seem like it at times, the law is there to help and protect you. Guardianship is one of the ways that the law works to protect people who cannot protect themselves. There are many reasons to request guardianship, ranging from children in abusive situations to adults who cannot take care of themselves. Whatever the case may be, knowing what rights are available to you is crucial to ensuring the wellbeing of all parties involved.
Reasons for Guardianship for a Minor
- The child’s parents are deceased
If the parents of a child pass, 9 times out of 10 it is best that a family member or close friend of the family take guardianship over the child. Ideally, this provision would be established in a will that the parents have created. It is possible to dictate who of your family or friends would receive custody of your child. Doing so eliminates the pain for a child and family of going through the court system to request guardianship, or worse, being placed in foster homes. It also removes friction between family members who all believe they would have been the best choice to raise your child, whether you thought that or not.
- The child is in an unsafe home due to alcohol or drugs
Ensuring a child’s safety is a priority of the legal system, and if a child is known to be in an unsafe situation, you should petition for guardianship. Typically, this action will be done by a family member, such as a grandparent. Although a difficult and painful process, the child’s well-being is the priority.
- The parents do not have the ability to care for a child or do not want to
This can be one of the hardest reasons to request guardianship, but sometimes is the most necessary. If the parents are in no financial state to take care of a child, and basic necessities like food and clothes cannot be provided, then it may be time to intervene. There are also instances where the parents of a child do not want the child and do not want to care for him/her. Instead of the child being placed up for adoption, requesting guardianship may be the best route to take.
- The child is in an abusive situation
All too often children are found in abusive situations by no fault of their own. In these instances, the state almost always will be involved as criminal charges may be pressed. However, as a relative of the child, you can petition the court to receive guardianship. Children who are in abusive situations are removed from the parent’s custody and placed under the care of the court until a suitable family can be found to care for the child. This can mean foster homes or even adoption, and as a family member of the child you can ask to care for the child instead of the child going to a stranger.
Reasons for Guardianship for an Adult
If you have a disabled adult child, who is unable to take care of himself, then guardianship may be the best and possibly the only option. The law says that once your child turns 18, you no longer have the legal ability to make decisions for him. This could turn into a problem in the event of a medical situation, school situation or living situation. Guardianship is a great way to protect your child. You can file for a guardianship of a disabled child when the child turns 17.5 years old. The disability can be due to autism, Down Syndrome, traumatic brain injury or several other diagnoses. The paperwork can seem overwhelming and so having an attorney working together with you can give you a lot of comfort and peace of mind.
As people near the end of life, it is possible that they will reach a place where they cannot make decisions for themselves anymore. There are other alternatives to becoming a guardian, like establishing some sort of Power of Attorney, but becoming a guardian grants a broader scope of authority than specific POA’s. Reasons for this may include Alzheimer’s, stroke, accidents, or other forms of dementia.
Becoming a guardian is a costlier route than establishing Power of Attorney, but it does have more benefits and in the case of minors may be necessary. As unfortunate as it is, sometimes becoming a guardian is the best option available to ensure the wellbeing of the person in question. If this is a route you are considering, an attorney will be needed for the process. Contact Paula Hannah for more information.