Legal Guardianship: Key Questions And Answers

In certain situations, an adult may want to accept responsibility for a child under an arrangement known as a legal guardianship. If you are considering becoming a legal guardian for a minor, you will obviously have a lot of questions about the process. This article examines some of the key questions about this important aspect of family law.   

How Do I Become a Guardian?   

The first step in becoming a guardian is filing papers with the court declaring your intent to seek the legal guardianship of a minor. The local presiding court will have the forms that you must fill out. You will also need to notify certain relevant parties, such as the child's parents or the person caring for the child, of your intentions. The court will then hold a hearing and the judge will approve or reject your application.   

How is a Guardianship Different From an Adoption?  

A guardianship does not break the legal bond between a child and his parents. The parents still have legal rights and will generally remain a part of the child's life. Guardianships are often temporary and may be ended by the court. Adoptions break the legal bond between a child and his original parents. The adoptive parents have all the legal rights and the biological parents have none. Another difference is that adoptions are permanent.  

What Ends a Legal Guardianship? 

A guardianship ends for various reasons, such as the minor reaching the age of adulthood or entering the military. A parent who wishes to reestablish his or her original relationship with a child might petition the court to end a guardianship as well. Also, you might file a petition to end your legal guardianship if you are no longer capable of fulfilling your duties. For example, you might want to resign as a guardian if you develop a serious illness.

What is a Standby Guardianship?

A standby guardian is someone who agrees to take care of a minor in the event that a parent or parents become incapacitated. For instance, if a relative or friend knows that they will not be able to care of their child in the future, they may appoint you as standby guardian, You will become the child's legal guardian when the court determines that the parent has become mentally or physically incapacitated. 

Becoming a legal guardian to a minor can be rewarding, but also means accepting a large responsibility. To learn more, contact a local family law attorney (like those at Baudler, Maus, Forman, Kritzer & Wagner, LLP).