Guardianship is a legal proceeding in which the court appoints a person to take care of a minor child when it appears necessary or convenient. The court determines what is necessary or convenient on a case-by-case basis.
What Does Necessary or Convenient Mean?
A person, such as family or a friend, can seek guardianship of a child if the parents are unable or unwilling to care for the child due to things such as the parent’s health, military deployment or unfitness. A guardianship can be granted with the agreement of the parents or it can be granted over the objection of the parents if the potential guardian can prove to the court that the parent or parents are unfit.
Being unfit essentially means that the parent cannot provide for the basic health, safety or welfare of the child. Courts prefer to place a child with one or both of the parents and parents have a fundamental, constitutionally protected right to care, control and custody of their children so the burden is always on the potential guardian to prove unfitness.
What Is the Procedure to Obtain Guardianship?
Before seeking guardianship of a child, it is important to visit with an attorney before any court proceedings are initiated. If you decide that guardianship is necessary, you will need to file a petition with the court giving the judge information as to why guardianship should be granted to you.
This petition is filed in the county in which the child lives. Thereafter, a hearing will occur in which you can present evidence, including your testimony or that of others, to show the judge why you should be granted guardianship of the child.
Being a guardian brings about many responsibilities and duties. These duties are performed under the direction and supervision of the court and the guardian will be required to account to the court for actions taken by the guardian.
When Does a Guardianship Terminate?
Guardianship may be terminated when the reasons for which the guardianship was established no longer exist. If the guardianship was done by agreement, then it should end at the parent’s request unless the guardian can show a reason as to why it should not end. If the guardianship was done without an agreement, then the parents must correct whatever conditions are listed in the court order to regain custody of their child.
Guardianship of a child is a huge responsibility with a lot to consider. A guardian will typically take care of a child’s personal needs, including shelter, education and medical care. Therefore, if you are considering guardianship of a child, you should consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process.
For a consultation with one of our Family Law Attorneys, call Ball Morse Lowe at 405-701-5355.