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Guardianship FAQ

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What Is Guardianship?

Guardianship, or “Legal Guardianship,” is a type of relationship where one person assumes the legal responsibility, care, and protection of another person, called a “ward.” Guardianship is very similar to adoption, except that it can often be established for older persons, not just children or minors. 

When Is Guardianship Granted?

Guardianship may be granted for situations involving issues like:

  • Physical or mental handicap
  • Instances of abuse, neglect, or abandonment
  • Medical incapacitation

In some cases, a court can grant guardianship with little or no difficulty, especially in clear cases where a child needs a legal guardian. In some cases, however, guardianship can be challenged, much in the way that child custody is challenged in a divorce case.

Who Can Be a Guardian?

This is different in each case, but generally speaking the guardian must be of sound mind, physical capability, and financial stability. It is also helpful if they have some prior existing relationship with the ward, and also if they have no criminal record on file. In some cases, the ward may select their own guardian, but usually this will still require the approval of a judge.   

How Long Does Guardianship Last?

This depends on the needs of the ward.  In most cases involving guardianship of a minor, the guardianship relation will last until the child reaches the age of majority (18 years old in most states). Guardianship can sometimes last indefinitely, which is common in an adult guardianship relationship due to medical disability. Temporary guardianship can also be arranged, in which case the relationship will terminate after a set period of time, or after a specific objective has been accomplished.   

What Are Some Alternatives to Guardianship?

A major alternative to guardianship is adoption. Adoption is very similar to guardianship, except that adoption tends to be much more involved than a guardianship. 

With adoption, the person actually becomes the legal parent of the person, which may entail more responsibility. On the other hand, a guardianship can sometimes take on a more business-like nature, especially where the guardianship is for the purpose of care-taking, or if it focuses more on medical supervision. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Guardianship Relationships?

Guardianship is a major responsibility and involves much interaction with the court system.  You may wish to speak with a family lawyer if you or a loved one needs help with guardianship laws. Your attorney can provide you with much-needed advice on how to proceed with a guardianship arrangement. Also, a lawyer can provide you with legal representation if you are required to make an appearance before a judge.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 08-20-2017 10:06 PM PDT

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