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Guardianship Overview

A legal guardian is an adult who is chosen by a court or a dependent's will to make decisions on behalf of an individual who cannot make decisions for him or herself, usually a minor but sometimes an adult with special needs. Parents may even establish guardianship over their child’s estate in some instances, particularly when a minor comes into a large amount of money. In fact, an adult relative or family friend, a child-protective agency, or if the child is over a certain age, the infant (child), can petition the court to be appointed as the guardian or standby guardian of a child. The Guardianship Overview section includes articles covering the basics of guardianship, the types of decisions a guardian typically makes, common reasons for the appointment of guardians, the process of establishing guardianship, the difference between testamentary and temporary guardianship, and more.

Guardianship Laws FAQ: When Is Guardianship Necessary?

The law deems us to be of full legal capacity when we reach age 18, unless we’re incapacitated for some reason other than insufficient age. And we’re presumed to be competent until a court decides otherwise. There are a number of possible reasons for pursuing guardianship such as access to medical information and doctors, ensuring educational obligations are met by school districts (which can extend beyond age 18), access to funds or income sources, and protection against improper contracts or purchases, to name a few. If you're caring for a child, you may not have considered establishing a legal guardianship, but it's an important step towards ensuring that the laws work for you in protecting the child's best interest.

Selection of a Guardian

While it’s difficult enough to think about not being there to raise your children, imagine a court choosing their guardian with no input from you. Picture your relatives arguing in court over who gets your children—or having them agree but not on the people you would have chosen. In selecting a guardian, there are a number of factors to consider including thinking beyond the obvious choices, considering close friends, who will best care for your child from a financial standpoint, and values and religious beliefs. Most likely, no one on your list will seem perfect – that is, just like you. But if you truly consider what matters to you most, you will probably be able to make some reasonable choices. In the end, trust your instincts.

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help You

If you decide to hire a lawyer to help with your guardianship proceeding, it is important to choose one who is a good fit for you and your situation. There are several reasons why you might not fit well with a particular lawyer. Some potential clients are clear from the start that they want a lawyer who is of the same gender they are. Others reject a lawyer who seems too aggressive, opting instead for a more soothing or parental type, especially in family law cases. For some, aggressiveness is a prized trait. Keep in mind, many family law attorneys offer free consultations. The selection of a family law attorney is crucial not only to the ultimate outcome of your case, but also to how your case progresses from start to finish in terms of stress for you and your children, cost, and length of time.

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