A legal guardianship is a court order that designates one person to act for the benefit and protection of another person, usually a minor. The recipient of a legal guardian’s services is referred to as a “ward.” The ward is most often a minor child whose parents are no longer capable of providing care usually due to death or incapacity of some kind.
There are different types of legal guardianships involving minors, like temporary guardianships and emergency guardianships. However, virtually all versions of guardianship refer to non-parental parties who assume the legal responsibility for the ward.
Should you become a legal guardian of a minor?
If you are living with a child who is not your biological or adopted child and you would like to keep doing so long-term, then consider becoming the guardian of that child. If you are not a guardian, then it will be difficult to get healthcare for the child, and you may have a difficult time registering them for school or extracurricular activities. Guardianship of a minor creates certain rights, which means you will have far more say in the child’s future than if you remain a caretaker.
Not everyone is fit to become a guardian. When you file for guardianship , it could start a dispute that you might want to avoid for both your sake and that of the child. If the parents object, then the entire filing process could be extremely difficult.
Who can become a legal guardian?
A legal guardian can be any adult over the age of 18. However, to be a guardian, you will have to show you are capable of taking care of the child’s needs. These include providing a place to live, education, food, and healthcare. In most cases, this will be a family member or someone with close ties to the child who knows the child and can provide accordingly.
To establish yourself as a legal guardian of a minor child, you must file a petition with an Arkansas circuit court stating your interest in caring for the child. The court will then evaluate you and determine whether or not you are capable of properly caring for a child.
Differences between legal guardianship, adoption, and child custody
While both guardianship and adoption create legal parent-child relationships that give the adult certain rights and responsibilities, an adoption is more permanent. Although adoption severs the legal relationship between the child and their biological parents, guardianship does not. In adoption, the adoptive parents become the legal parents of the child, and the biological parents agree to release all rights related to the child.
In most cases, establishing a legal guardianship does not end an existing parent-child relationship. In fact, a parent can request the court to end a guardianship if they can establish that doing so is in the best interest of the child.
Whereas child custody provides rights and responsibilities to the parent or parents of the minor child, a legal guardianship provides many of the same rights and responsibilities to someone who is not the child’s parent. The responsibilities of a legal guardian are usually greater than those of a parent who is awarded physical custody, but about the same as the responsibilities of a parent who is granted legal custody. A guardian has the power to make legal decisions for the child.
What if a parent already has custody of the child?
A parent almost always has custody before guardianship.
If one parent has become incapacitated and a legal guardian is appointed, then it may affect visitation schedules related to custody arrangements already in place. That means the court will likely revise the visitation rights of the other parent.
How does guardianship of a minor end?
Many events can lead to the end of a legal guardianship of a minor. These can include any of the following scenarios:
- A judge determines that a guardianship is no longer in the best interest of the child or is otherwise unnecessary.
- The sole purpose of the guardianship was to manage the child’s finances, and those finances have run out.
- The child turns 18, which is the legal age of majority.
- The child dies.
A legal guardian can also submit a request to the circuit court to be relieved of their guardianship. Here the judge will usually honor the request and appoint a new guardian.
For more information
If you want to become a guardian of a minor child, then contact a family law attorney to help with the guardianship process. Call the lawyers at Mann & Kemp at (501) 222-4730 today!
Doing so will greatly improve your chances of becoming a legal guardian to the child in question, and you will better understand your rights and responsibilities in the process.