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Legal Guardianship

– legalguardianship.org –

Legal guardianship is established by the court, whereby a minor child or incapacitated adult is placed under the supervision of a guardian who, under the terms of the legal guardianship, is legally responsible for the care and custody of the child (or adult). It allows the guardian to access services for the child (or adult), something that would not be possible without the legal guardianship status.

The differences between guardianship and adoption:

  • Legal guardianship does not sever the rights of the parents;
  • Parent(s) may apply to the court for the return of custody (except in the case of Permanent Guardianship);
  • The child's last name is not changed (although it can be upon court petition);
  • Legal guardianship terminates when the child reaches the age of adulthood (except in the case of an individual with diminished capacity, in which case it can be extended or a new application filed).

Legal guardianship is one of several "permanency options" for children, and is one of the formalized kinship care options as well. If parents are unable to provide the day-to-day care needed by their children, relatives will often step in to help; however, without legal status in the child's life, relatives may find themselves unable to access health care, sign legal documents, or obtain other services on behalf of the child. Legal guardianship is one way in which this can be resolved, without terminating the rights of the parent(s).

Note: Permanent Guardianship is allowed in some states (not all) and provides for an irrevocable guardianship for a minor child whereby the parent(s) are prohibited from applying for a return of custody. This type of legal guardianship is used where terminating parental rights may be difficult but it is determined that the parent(s) should never have physical custody of the child.

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