A child’s legal guardian is a non-parent person appointed by the court to take care of a child and make decisions on their behalf. To become a child’s legal guardian is to assume legal responsibility for a child and to have the authority to take care of their property and personal interests.
The decision to appoint a legal guardian is not an easy one for the courts because it requires to forgo the parenting rights of biological parents and give those rights to a third person.
Children will require a legal guardian in situations where their natural parents are incapacitated whether by illness, addiction, incarceration or other reasons for not being able or available to take care of their child.
Family courts and probate courts have jurisdiction over guardianship of children.
To become a legal guardian, the following steps must be taken:
- Find the court with the proper venue and jurisdiction. In other words, find the court that has decision-making power according to where the child is living.
- Collect the paperwork for the child and for the guardian
- Submit a petition for guardianship to the court
- The child’s natural parents have to be properly served or given official notice of the guardianship proceedings
- Schedule the guardianship hearing. Know there may be multiple hearings.
- Attend the Guardianship court hearings.
- The court may appoint a court attorney or legal guardian for the child to report to the court your fitness to be a guardian and the parents’ unfitness to be guardians themselves
- Follow the court’s requirements