Becoming a Guardian
A guardian is defined as a legal caretaker for a ward, a person who is unable to care for themselves based on age or disability. By default, parents are the legal guardians of a minor child. Unless the parents perform an act that forces the court to revoke their parental rights, the mother and father of a child will remain the primary caretakers.
The court appoints the guardian for minor children or incapacitated persons and focuses heavily on the best interests of the ward. Appointing a guardian is a complex process that often requires legal guidance.
An extra effort is always made to not disrupt a stable home, and often an appointed guardian is someone who has played a large role in raising the child or helping with the medical needs of an incapacitated person. Biological parents, even in cases of divorce, are usually favored over individuals who are not related to the child.
The court considers the following factors when appointing a guardian:
- Financial condition
- Religious beliefs
- Criminal background
The Typical Rights of Court-Appointed Guardians
A guardian has the right to make decisions in the best interest of the ward. The court will often outline the types of decisions a guardian is responsible for making. These decisions frequently include:
- Living Arrangements: Determining a safe permanent place of residence for the ward.
- Education: Ensuring that the ward has the appropriate opportunities to learn.
- Employment: Finding a safe work environment if the ward has the ability to contribute.
- Religious Beliefs: It is the right of the guardian to raise the ward to the best of his or her ability, including participating in religious events.
- Finances: It is the guardian’s responsibility to file taxes, if necessary, manage property and monitor other financial assets of the ward.
- Medical and Psychological Treatment: When necessary, the legal guardian can make appropriate decisions regarding medical care.
- Relationships: Monitoring relationships with friends and family members.
You can prepare for all of the tangible responsibilities of a guardian, but emotional joys and burdens come with accepting responsibility for a ward as well. It is likely that your responsibility will come at a difficult time, perhaps immediately following the ward’s loss of parents. These emotional situations can make starting your role as guardian more difficult.
If you are considering taking on the role of a guardian, you will likely retain that position for life. However, guardianship can legally end in a number of ways:
- A judge determines the guardianship is no longer beneficial to the ward
- The guardian asks the court to be relieved of his/her court-appointed duties
- The ward dies
- The ward comes of age
- The ward marries (in jurisdictions that allow termination of guardianship because of marriage, the guardian often still remains guardian of the estate)
The reasons for termination set forth above vary depending on the jurisdiction, so it is wise to check with local legal professionals to learn about the options in your area.
- Guardian and Ward, by thefreedictionary.com
- Adult Guardianship – Duties & Reporting Requirements, by senior-law.org
- Guardianship or Power of attorney: Which One Do You Need, by elder-clinic.law.wfu.edu/
- Legal Forms for Temporary Guardianship, by David Carnes
- Adult Guardianship Handbooks by State, by americanbar.org
- How to Terminate Guardianship, by Jose Rivera
- Legal Guardianship, by AmeriTrust Law Group
- National Guardian Association, by guardianship.org/education
- Certificate in Guardianship, by pce.uw.edu
- Guardianship Training, by guardiantraining.com
- Florida Guardianship Practice, Eighth Edition, by Florida Bar continuing Legal Education
- The guardianship Book for California: How to Become a Child’s Legal Guardian, by David Brown & Emily Doskow, Attorneys.
- Handbooks for Guardians/Conservators, by William J. self, II
- A Handbook for Relative Guardianship, by peapods.us
- Rave Guardian, by Rave Mobile Safety, available on iTunes for free