Establishing and Maintaining a Guardianship FAQ -P1

Questions about when, why, and how you can obtain legal guardianship of a child, and maintain the guardianship once it's established.
How do I establish a guardianship?
To put a guardianship in place, you will start by filing guardianship papers in court. A court investigator will likely interview you, the child, and his or her parents if they are alive and available. The investigator will then make a recommendation to the judge. The judge will review the case and decide whether to appoint you, usually after a hearing. The court must find that the appointment is in the best interests of the child.
If you want to name a guardian for your own children in case you aren't around to take care of them, use a will to name the person you want to take care of them.
Can I be appointed guardian if the child's parents object?
As a general rule, guardianships are not granted unless:
  • the parents voluntarily consent
  • the parents have abandoned the child, or
  • a judge finds that it would be detrimental to the child for his or her parents to have custody.
There are some circumstances where you can get a guardianship over the parents' objections, but you'd usually have to prove that the parents were unfit. You would need a lawyer's help for this. Other family members -- siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles of the child -- are also entitled to know that you are pursuing a guardianship, and have a right to object. You should probably consult a lawyer if anyone in the child's family tells the court that they object to you becoming the guardian.
Who financially supports a child under a guardianship?
Unless a court terminates the biological parents' rights (uncommon in most guardianship situations), the parents are responsible for supporting their child. In reality, however, financial support often becomes the guardian's responsibility. The guardian may choose to seek financial benefits on the child's behalf, such as public assistance and Social Security.
Any funds the guardian receives for the child must be used for the child's benefit. Depending on the amount of money involved, the guardian may be required to file periodic reports with a court showing how much money was received for the child and how it was spent.