Guardianship of Minors
Since minors are generally protected and cared for by their parents, a minor's parents can make any and all legal decisions that may be necessary for their children's welfare. However, in some cases a child may need a separate individual to attend to their legal rights, because the minor has inherited assets or no longer has a parent qualified to make legal decisions on his or her behalf. In these guardianship of minors cases, a guardian is chosen voluntarily by the family or appointed by the court.
A guardian is someone who makes legal decisions for another person, called a ward, who is unable to make those decisions on their own. Read on to learn more about the selection and termination of guardians and the roles and responsibilities they have toward their ward.
Guardianship of Minors: Selection Process
A guardian should be selected with the best interests of the minor in mind. Courts prefer a chosen guardian to have ties to the ward, such as:
- A person chosen by the ward;
- A parent or another relative; or
- A state employee or private person familiar with the ward.
If the parents are still alive, before a nonparent is chosen as a guardian the parents must be deemed unable or unfit to look after the best interests of the minor. When minors are removed from the care and supervision of their parents and adoption is either not forthcoming or not a viable option, guardianship of the minor is considered a reasonable alternative. Even after a guardian is chosen for a minor, most state statutes allow that by the time a minor reaches a certain age (fourteen in some states), they may select (or at least voice a preference) concerning who will be selected to serve as their guardian.
Guardianship of Minors: Roles and Responsibilities
A guardian looks after the direct physical well-being of the minor and any assets in the minor's estate. A guardian must also:
- Provide a legal residence in order for the ward to attend a public school;
- Apply for public assistance benefits for a minor if needed;
- Apply for public housing on behalf of a minor where necessary; and
- Bring a lawsuit on behalf of the minor as needed.
The guardian also receives and maintains any money due the minor for his or her care or support. The guardian is required to maintain, account for, and preserve any excess funds beyond what is necessary to support the minor. The guardian has a duty to look after the minor's personal property and assure the proper education of the ward.
The guardian is also required to authorize any necessary medical or other care for the well-being and health of the ward. Generally, the guardian provides whatever care would be given to a child by his or her parents.
Guardianship of Minors: Termination
Any guardianship may be terminated when the minor reaches the age of majority. However, the guardianship may be reinstated by the court after that point, if it can be shown that the ward still requires supervision. Guardianships may also be terminated if the ward marries, and they are automatically terminated at the death of the ward. In addition, the guardianship may be terminated, and a new guardian appointed, when it can be shown that the guardian did not adequately perform his or her duties to the ward.
Get Legal Help With Your Minor Guardianship
The very emotional context in which guardianship issues exist make self-representation a risky proposition. A lawyer will represent your issues in an organized and professional manner, using their knowledge of the law instead of anxiety or outrage. Contact a qualified, local family law attorney today to learn more.