As a society, we all wish to provide our children with a happy, safe, healthy life. That’s not to say there aren’t those who deliberately or inadvertently disrespect, ignore or otherwise harm their children. When that happens, though, there’s usually someone willing to care for the child in a responsible, loving manner. For the majority of those seeking to care for a child who is not biologically theirs, establishing a guardianship is usually the best option.
Guardianship is the granting of legal rights, which can be temporary, to someone who is not the biological parent of a minor and which allows the guardian to provide the financial, medical and nurturing responsibilities that come with caring for a child. This can be a relative, friend or a foster caregiver. Adoption is often confused for guardianship because it’s what most people understand, but when a child is adopted, the biological parents relinquish all rights to the child, locking themselves out of ever having any say in the child’s life, regardless of whether they become fit to provide adequate care for the child in the future.
There are many reasons why someone may seek guardianship of a child, including:
- The parents are deceased;
- The child lives in unsafe conditions due to drug, alcohol, mental or physical abuse;
- The biological parents are unable to feed or cloth their child, provide a stable income or adequate medical care, or abandon their child;
- The biological parent is in the military and must be deployed; or
- The parent is incarcerated.
One of the reasons that makes guardianship a better option in most cases is that guardianship is not permanent. Firstly, responsibility over the child ends when they turn eighteen. More importantly, unless the biological parents are deceased, guardianship allows for the possibility of reuniting the child with their biological parents. The rights of the parents are not relinquished in guardianship, which means if the court finds that one or both parents are fit to provide adequate care for the child, they may regain custody. Unless a court says otherwise, the parents can also retain a variety of rights, including that of visitation.
People may also acquire guardianship of the estate, which allows someone to gain control over the management and safeguarding of the child’s income, money and property until they become eighteen. Generally, the same person will receive both guardianships, though in some cases, this responsibility could be divided among different people. It’s always best to consult a lawyer if you’re to be the guardian of an estate, as complying with the relevant fiduciary duties is very important.
Providing the safest, healthiest environment for a child is a major undertaking, so make sure you’re prepared for the responsibility by seeking a custody arrangement that is in the best interests of both you, the child and in a lot of cases, the biological parent(s).