Permanent guardianship is a type of relationship created between a child and an adult or a caregiver. The guardian is responsible for the child’s overall well being which includes healthcare, housing, safety, and education. 

This relationship creates a permanent family for the child. The guardian will also be responsible for making important life decisions for the child. However, parental rights need not be terminated under the permanent guardianship. 

What is the Process of Obtaining a Permanent Guardianship?

Each state is different in the process on how to obtain a permanent guardianship. However, here is generally what is required by the courts: 

  • Filing a petition stating the interest of guardianship for the child with the necessary fees;
  • Filing the letter of consent from the child’s parents;
  • Court can conduct house visits, interviews and criminal background checks to ensure the child’s best interests for the guardianship and;
  • Once completed courts make a decision and if the guardianship is approved courts will require you to sign an oath to accept the legal responsibilities of the guardianship.

What if the Child’s Parents’ Do Not Consent?

Certain requirements must be met before a permanent guardianship can be granted. First, both parents must consent. Second, the child has been abandoned or the parental rights have been terminated. Lastly, a judge may find it in the child’s best interest to have the child removed from the parent’s custody. 

Courts can still approve situations in which the parents do not provide their consent. If parents are deemed unfit, a petition for guardianship can be granted to best suit the interests of the child. However, the child’s other relatives can object to guardianship and this can create complicated situations. It is useful to obtain a guardianship lawyer to assist with the process. 

What Are the Responsibilities of a Permanent Guardianship?

Before signing up to be a permanent guardian for a child, you should consider the responsibilities involved in being a guardian. There are both financial and emotional responsibilities that entail permanent guardianship. Financial support is only available from the parents whose rights have not been terminated yet.   

Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Are you able to manage the role of a legal parent in another child’s life? 
  • Can you accept all the continuous responsibilities that attach with guardianship? 
  • Will you be able to provide the necessary support needed to maintain a healthy child? 
  • How will this guardianship affect your own lifestyle and other relationships? 

It is important to think through these questions and consider your options. Furthermore, these will guide you to make an informed decision about accepting the responsibilities that come with permanent guardianship. 

How Do I Terminate a Permanent Guardianship?

Permanent guardianship is terminated when one of these events occur:

  • Child turns 18 years of age;
  • Child is adopted, marries, joins the military, or is declared as an adult by the court; 
  • Child passes away before the age of 18; or
  • The court ends the guardianship.

The request for termination can be made by either the child who is 12 years or older, the parents of the child or the guardian.Most states have their own guidelines on how to end a permanent guardianship. Generally, if a guardian wants to resign they must:

  • Notify the court and give notice to the child’s relatives and; 
  • Show that it would be in the best interests of the child to terminate the guardianship. 

Once the court makes a decision based upon the best interests of the child, the guardianship will terminate and if need be a process for a new guardian will begin. 

What Are the Parental Rights During Permanent Guardianship?

If the parental rights have not been terminated by the court. Parents can still exercise some rights during the permanent guardianship of their child. The legal guardian now has control over the life decisions of your child and the responsibility of nurturing them. 

Guardianship order overrides the custody provisions of a family court order. The legal guardian has the authority by the court to act on behalf of the child, while the parent’s rights of the child are on hold. The court may order the guardian to allow visits with the child’s parents but may restrict it as needed for the child’s best interests. 

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Permanent Guardianship Issues?

Obtaining and maintaining a permanent guardianship can be financially, mentally and physically draining. Certain situations can arise that will complicate your status of permanent guardianship in the child’s life. 

Therefore, before considering investing in a permanent guardianship of a child, consulting a family lawyer can help guide you to the right options and determine if it is something you need to consider right now in your life. A guardianship lawyer can help you navigate through the process that can vary state by state and assist you in making an informed decision.