What is Legal Guardianship?
Guardianship of Minors
In the realm of family law, a legal guardian is a person who has been selected to act as the primary caretaker of a child or minor. This person may be personally selected by the child’s biological parents, or appointed by the court. Guardianship arrangements may be necessary in instances where the biological parents of the child are unable to care for the child.
Guardianship of Adults
In other circumstances, “legal guardian” can refer to a person who has assumed care of an adult. This is the case where a person assumes legal responsibility for an elderly or incapacitated adult, and is also called ‘Guardian of the Person”). The term may also refer to a person who is entrusted with the task of overseeing a person’s financial matters (i.e., “Guardian of the Estate”). These types of guardians are often appointed for someone in a nursing home, for example. In these instances, the adult in need must be determined legally incompetent prior to the appointment of the guardian. This is accomplished through proceeding with a Petition in what is known in Pennsylvania counties as the “Orphan’s Court” division. The Orphan’s court handles guardianship issues, estate issues, adoptions and various other proceedings.
What it means to be a Legal Guardian
Before seeking or accepting Legal Guardianship, make certain you know what will your role will be.
Rights of a Legal Guardian
Becoming a legal guardian involves different legal rights and duties. A legal guardian generally has the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child or adult for whom they have been appointed guardian. These can include decisions such as where to live, where to send the child to school, and other important issues.
Responsibilities of a Legal Guardian
Responsibilities of a legal guardian are also very broad. In most cases, the legal guardian also has legal and physical custody of the child. This means that they must fulfill duties in the same way as a parent would for their child. These responsibilities may include providing food, clothing, and shelter for the child; maintaining the child’s physical and emotional health; and protecting the child from safety hazards.
Is Guardianship Permanent?
This depends on the order issued by the court. Legal guardianship of a minor will generally terminate when the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 years old). Guardianship may also terminate for other reasons, for instance if the guardian him or herself becomes incapacitated, or if the adult in question regains a state of physical and/or mental competence.
Also, some legal guardianship arrangements are designed to be temporary at the outset. This can happen for instance if the biological parents request for the guardianship to be temporary, or if there is a pressing emergency situation involved.
Is a Lawyer required for Legal Guardian issues?
Legal guardianship determinations should be and are treated very seriously by the courts. They may affect a child’s future upbringing as well as the rights of the biological parents. They may also affect the physical and financial care of an incompetent adult.
The attorneys at Hynum Law have significant experience with the laws and procedures governing Guardianship in Pennsylvania, and can provide you with the legal advice and representation that is needed during Guardianship hearings in court.