How is guardianship of a child established?
Initially, papers will need to be filed in court to establish the guardianship of a child. The petition must indicate your interest in obtaining a guardianship. Further, a fee will be required. If the guardians are not parents, a letter of consent will be required from the child’s parents. At a later date, interviews will be set up with the court with the child, the prospective Guardian and the child’s parents. Ina number of cases, a home visit or inspection may be required by the court. Further, it is important that a criminal background check of the prospective Guardian is carried out to ascertain their suitability.
Whose interest does the court look at?
When looking at these matters, the court will consider what is in the best interest of the child, before making a decision. The court will hear all the details regarding the application. If they believe it would be in the best interest of the child to proceed, the court will grant legal guardianship of the child. In most states, the guardian will be required to sign a statement indicating that they accept their responsibilities of being a guardian.
Can I appoint a legal guardian for my children?
The answer to this question is yes! Further it is great and forward thinking, planning to do so, just in case you succumb to some event in the future which warrants you unable to adequately raise your children. When considering this matter, you need to choose someone who you can trust to be a guardian for your child/children.
How do I do this?
One way you can do this is to express it in your will.
Can I just choose anyone to be the guardian of my children?
Technically, yes you could. However, this is a matter that you need to think carefully about. You need a guardian who has your child’s best interests in his mind. It would be wise to appoint a prospective Guardian who is familiar with both you and your family. They will have a greater understanding of your child’s needs.
You can name one person as your guardian. Clearly, this is a matter where you need to speak with the respective guardian beforehand to make sure that they agree to your request. Further, you need an alternative guardian. This is required because if you are incapacitated and need the first guardian, and they are not available, there are still options available. Your requirements of the alternative guardian will be the same as that of your first choice as a guardian.
If you have a number of children, you also have the option of appointing a different guardian for each child if any reason you deem this more suitable for your particular circumstances.
What factors should I consider when choosing a legal guardian?
- You must be sure that the guardian will work for your children’s best interest.
- Any guardian must be able to physically fulfil their responsibilities.
- The guardian must be of a legal adult age. In most states, this age is 18 years.
- The Guardian must be a person who has sufficient time to care your children.
- The Guardian must be someone who has sufficient finances and can afford to raise your children adequately. In your will, this is a matter that can be provided for.
- It is very important that your guardian is someone who has the same morals as you and the person who you would feel happy about looking after your children until they reach adulthood.
- You must consider if your guardian has children of their own and whether this will have an impact on your children. Further, you must consider the same problem, should they not have any children of their own.
What explanation do I need to give for my choice of guardianship ?
You don’t have to explain your choice. However, it would be in your interest as it would give the judge a greater understanding of your choice, if perhaps there was some question as to why you had chosen them.
A judge will consider the following issues:
- What is the child’s preference?
- Where is the child most likely to receive the best care and stability in life?
- Is the guardian chosen by the parent, able to best fulfil the child’s needs?
- What is the relationship between the prospective legal guardian and the child/children?
- Does the prospective guardian have the moral character required?
This article has dealt with some of the basic issues that will initially be looked at while choosing a legal guardian for your child/children.