Individuals who have been deemed incapable of making critical decisions on their own are usually appointed legal guardians to look over them by a court. Such individuals can either be children under the legal age (usually 18), older people who have lost their mental faculties and other people who are mentally incapacitated. As a safety precaution, parents often grant guardianship of their children to trustworthy individuals should something terrible befall them; to safeguard against incidents such as a crippling disease, financial incapability and other unanticipated problems that are beyond their control such as death.
While the entire process of appointing a guardian can take as long as two months between petition and appointment, the duration for emergency guardianship is granted in a matter of days. As a parent you are most qualified to make this critical decision in your lifetime rather than leaving it to a judge who probably has little idea about your family, their needs and requirements. In the scenario that you do end up getting incapacitated, the person you nominated will be given top priority to assume the role of the legal guardian.
Under normal circumstances the designated person will get guardianship over the child unless there is compelling evidence that said person is unqualified, unfit or potentially dangerous to raise the child.
As such various factors are considered before granting guardianship;
1) The guardian must have the capability to raise the child, they should not have their own set of personal and physical problems which could hinder their new responsibilities.
2) The nominee must be willing to assume the arduous task of raising someone else’s child. It can be a formidable idea to care of a child that doesn’t belong to you; it is recommended that this person has fondness towards the child. Parents can assess this fondness during their lifetime.
3) They must be able to dedicate proper amount of time to the child; their jobs and other personal responsibilities should not withhold them from discharging their newly assigned role as a guardian.
4) The person must have access to the necessary funding to afford raising the child. The funds can be collected through the estate left over to the child by their parents, or they could be derived from the personal income of the guardian themselves.
5) It is ideal that the person has compatibility with your own belief systems, morals and code of ethics so that concepts and ideologies alien to your own can be prevented from being passed over to your child.
6) The environment of the guardian needs to be properly assessed: is it safe to raise the child in the vicinity of their home?
7) Proper background checks need to be performed, pertinent questions need to be answered such as ‘Does the guardian have a disturbing criminal background which could affect the moral and physical wellbeing of the child?’
8) If the guardian has other children under their care, will preoccupation with them prove detrimental to the newly appointed ward’s own wellbeing?
Often the guardian is related to you in some way, it is important to not blindly trust them simply because they’re your blood relatives. Proper psychological and criminal check-ups should be performed at all costs.
It is a good idea to give the child subtle hints about their new guardian. Often times it is better to let the child get acquainted with this person to prevent as much emotional trauma and shock to them as possible should the situation ever arise to get them transferred over to the guardian. If possible you should observe your child’s interaction with this new guardian and make note of important facts such as;
- is the child fond of their guardian or frightened of them
- does the child get along with them, are they able to place their trust in their new guardian
If the child is not happy in the presence of the guardian, then it should raise red flags and you’re probably better off seeking some other nominee. If the child is unable to bear this guardian for even a brief session of five minutes, think what life would be like for them if they have to spend the rest of their childhood with someone who instills fear in their hearts.
Common types of guardianship
1) Guardianship of the person
This title obligates the legal guardian to care for the personal wellbeing of the ward, this includes their medical care, their schooling, the food they eat and their overall brought up. The title does not necessitate the guardian to spend from their own earnings on the child. They are expected to make the best decisions on behalf of the child, as if he/she was their own child.
2) Guardian of the estate
This type of guardianship gives the person the authority to make financial decisions on behalf of the child. They manage the child’s money, property and estate.
3) Plenary guardianship
This is the closest thing to being a parent – plenary guardians make both personal and financial decisions on the child’s behalf. Their decision making power is only limited by stipulations placed on them by the court. Their responsibilities include applying for insurance for the child including Medicare or Medicaid.
Brief note for the guardian
Immediate family members, such as siblings and their own parents, are sometimes the preferred choice to become guardians of a child. In most cases, they give their immediate nod of approval but often times fail to realize the mountain of responsibility they are getting themselves into. We recommend that if someone is approached to assume the role of a guardian, they sit down with a guardianship attorney and discuss the consequences of accepting the parent’s proposition.
It is important to understand the legal obligations and legal jargon that comes with the important role of a guardian. It is imperative to get professional opinion in order for you to become the best possible guardian to the child while remaining within the boundary of law. Your guardianship attorney will help you derive a proper plan and out it in place, which should line up perfectly with your own interests and personal life without jeopardizing your guardianship.
Guardianships vs. Child custody
Folks not familiar with technical jargon often end up confusing guardianship with child custody. While the intent of both these terminologies is the guaranteed safety of the child, they are complete worlds apart. Child custody is granted to either one or both of the parents in the event that they separate due to a breakdown in the relationship. In contrast, guardianship is the transference of the responsibility of raising a child away from the parents and to a completely different person, usually a close friend or relative. Guardianships also maintain the legal relationship between the child and their biological parents while they are still deemed capable by the court – or if they’re still alive.
When guardianships end
Guardianships usually end when the child has reached the age of adulthood. They could be reinstated if the court deems it necessary. They can also get terminated if the guardian is seen violating certain laws. Another obvious reason for the guardianship to terminate is if either the guardian or the ward ends up dying.
Hire a family attorney before it’s too late
You can never be certain about what the future might have in store for you and your child – which makes it of paramount importance to insure your child’s safety against catastrophic outcomes. By hiring professional guardianship attorneys at Hardys Law office, you will be able to not only appoint your preferred guardian for your child but also draw out proper wills and trusts which would ensure that all your belongings are safely transferred to the child.