There are occasions where a child or children need some outside help. In the unfortunate situation where one or both of their parents are unavailable, in prison, or otherwise incapacitated, another individual can step in and become a child’s legal guardian. How to set up a proper guardianship for a child should be discussed with an experienced family law attorney.
There is a process one needs to follow to become a guardian. It’s one thing to take a child in and take care of them for a few days. But becoming a guardian is more than that. It means having some legal authority over the child and it’s usually best if represented by an attorney to obtain a court order confirming the guardianship.
What Is A Guardian?
A guardian is appointed by the court to take care of another person who is considered “incapacitated.” This definition includes a minor child, a disabled adult child, an elderly person who is unable to care for themselves, or an individual who needs a legally appointed guardian to receive funds from a governmental source.
An individual requiring this guardianship is called a “ward.”
Guardians for a child can be anyone that is either related or not related to the child or the parents. This can include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters, or even trusted friends of the family. When deciding on a guardian, the court grants guardianship by the child’s lineage:
1. The parents, one or both
2. A person appointed by the last surviving parent
3. The nearest relative to the child following the parents, usually grandparents, aunts, and/or uncles
4. Other relatives, such as brothers, sisters, or cousins, if they are adults themselves
5. A non relative that the court determines can provide adequate care and be an appropriate guardian
What It Means To Be A Child’s Guardian
A child’s guardian is generally their biological or adoptive parents. These are the people who are responsible for the child, including upbringing, support and care until the child turns 18. If for whatever reason, one or both the parents are no longer able to support and care for the child, another individual can step in and assume those duties.
If the parents wish to make arrangements for their child in the event of their death, they can designate a guardian in their will to take over care of their children. A guardian can make medical decisions for the child, as well as other decisions for education and religious upbringing. A guardian is also responsible for basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter, etc. A parent can make financial provisions for the guardian to raise the child. Although a legal guardian has technically no financial responsibility to the child, chances are that a guardian will be providing financial support.
Setting Up A Guardianship For A Minor In Texas
It’s best to speak with a family law attorney who understands the process prior to filing. Even if you decide to represent yourself, working with legal counsel can help you avoid obstacles during the process.
The easiest path to becoming a child guardian is to have the parents’ assign you as the guardian. They can provide you with a written statement where they indicate that they have assigned you the rights to be the child’s guardian, including privileges and responsibilities.
However, if the parents are not willing or unavailable, you will have to seek a court order to become a child’s guardian. You will first need to file a petition to be named as the guardian, then serve both of the parents with notice. Additionally, if you find that you must file a lawsuit, you will be required to hire an attorney at that point. Because filing for guardianship is much like a child custody case, the court will consider the best interests of the child. However, guardianship is under probate court, not family law court.
In your petition, you must describe why you should be granted guardianship. If you are filing for emergency guardianship, you should also mention this.
Texas requires that guardians pass a certification test. This includes a background check, paperwork, and fingerprints. Your attorney can help you with this. If you do not have legal counsel, the probate court clerk in your county can give you information.
You will also need as much documentation and evidence as you can acquire to show why you should be named as this child’s guardian. Medical records, legal documents, and anything else that’s relevant should be included. You could also include testimony from witnesses.
The court then requires a hearing to determine if guardianship is appropriate in each case. An appointment is not automatic, and you must give evidence and show why you should be appointed as the child’s guardian.
Tarrant County’s Family Law Attorney
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County who are dealing with guardianship concerns and other child support issues. She understands the difficulties involved and will work to resolve your situation and protect your interests.