What is a Legal Guardian?

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What is a Legal Guardian?

In a family law context, a legal guardian is a person who has been selected to act as the primary caretaker of a child or minor.  This person may be personally selected by the child’s biological parents, or appointed by the court. Guardianship arrangements may be necessary in instances where the biological parents of the child are unable to care for the child.

In other usages, the term “legal guardian” can refer to a person who has assumed care of an adult.  This is usually the case where a person assumes legal responsibility for an elderly or incapacitated adult.  Also, the term may refer to a person who is entrusted with the task of overseeing a person’s estate (i.e., “Guardian of the Estate”)

What are the Rights and Duties of a Legal Guardian?

Becoming a legal guardian involves many different legal rights and duties.  A legal guardian generally has the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child.  These can include decisions such as where to live, where to send the child to school, and other important aspects. 

Responsibilities of a legal guardian are also very broad.  In most cases, the legal guardian also has legal and physical custody of the child.  This means that they must fulfill duties in the same way as a parent would for their child.  These responsibilities may include providing food, clothing, and shelter for the child; maintaining the child’s physical and emotional health; and protecting the child from safety hazards. 

Is Guardianship Permanent?

This depends on the order issued by the court.  Legal guardianship of a minor will generally terminate when the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 years old).  Guardianship may also terminate for other reasons, for instance if the guardian becomes incapacitated. 

Also, some legal guardianship arrangements are designed to be temporary at the outset.  This can happen for instance if the biological parents request for the guardianship to be temporary, or if there is a pressing emergency situation involved. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Legal Guardian Laws?

Legal guardianship determinations are treated very seriously in family law courts.  These will affect the child’s future upbringing as well as the rights of the biological parents.  If you need assistance with legal guardian laws in your area, you should contact a qualified family law attorney.  Your lawyer can provide you with the legal advice and representation that is needed during guardianship hearings in court. 

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Last Modified: 02-13-2013 04:15 PM PST

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