FAQ on Guardianship of Minor Children

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions on guardianship of minor children

What or who is a guardian?

A guardian is someone who looks after a child’s needs such as food, clothing, shelter and medical care. A guardian also manages the child’s finances.

What is the difference between a guardianship and adoptions?

A guardian has certain legal rights and obligations towards the child and does not terminate the existing parent child relationship. The relationship continues to co-exist along with the guardianship. An adoption terminates the existing legal relationship between the child and his/her biological parents and the adoptive parents become the legal parents with full parental rights. The biological parents no longer have any obligations towards the child.

When does a guardianship end?

A guardianship ends on:
• the child’s death
• the child becoming an adult under the state law
• a judge orders that guardianship is no longer required
• the child’s finances have exhausted (if the guardianship was only for managing the finances of the child)

The guardian(s) can also request to court to be relieved of the guardianship. In such cases, a new guardian will be appointed.

Who or what is “guardian ad litem”?

The literal meaning of guardian ad litem is an individual who acts as a guardian during litigation. It refers to a person who makes legal decisions on behalf of the child in a litigation involving the child. This person could be an attorney or a third party appointed by the court but generally the court prefers to appoint close relatives as guardian ad litem.

Should I apply for guardianship of a child who is living with me but not my own?

If you intend to take long term care of the child, you should apply for guardianship. This will help you overcome the obstacles that you may have to face at the time of enrolling the child in a school or taking medical decisions on behalf of the child. It will give you a legal right to have a say in the child’s welfare which you will not have as a mere caretaker of the child.

Is there any reason why I should not agree to become a guardian?

There are many reasons. If you apply for guardianship, the biological parents can object and this can lead to a dispute which may not be in the child’s best interest. You can raise the child without guardianship but you will face many obstacles especially at the time of enrolling the child in a school or taking medical decisions on behalf of the child. Please check with your state laws.

Should a parent become the guardian of his or her own child?

If someone leaves something for the child under a will, the child will need a guardian until the child attains the age of majority. In such cases the parent may have to become the guardian. When you become the guardian, you will be bound by certain legal obligations towards the child.

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