When Should You Consider Formally Declaring A Guardian For Your Child?

Posted on: 31 March 2023

Custody and guardianship can be complex topics, and these issues can become particularly stressful since every parent wants to ensure the best for their children. Guardianship typically refers to custody involving someone other than a child's biological parents. The court system may assign a guardian for numerous reasons, including the death of the child's parents or a substantial change in circumstances.

One way to help ensure the care of your child under all possible circumstances is by formally declaring a legal guardian. The process for this can vary between states, and some states also use a concept known as "standby guardianship" to provide temporary authority. Working with an attorney is the best way to understand your guardianship options, and doing so may be wise under these three circumstances.

1. You Are Your Child's Only Parent

Raising a child alone can be difficult, even if you have family members to support you. For divorced parents, the state will typically assign custody to the surviving biological parent unless there are extenuating circumstances. However, the situation can be more complex if you are already your child's only surviving parent.

In these cases, courts will typically assign guardianship to another family member, often choosing based on various criteria to determine their fitness. Unfortunately, if you do not make your wishes known in advance, the courts may have no way of knowing your preferences. Taking steps to formally declare a legal or standby guardian can help ensure the court carries out your wishes.

2. You Want to Declare a Non-Family Guardian

In almost all cases where a child's parents do not declare a guardian in their will or another legal document, the court will look to family members first. In other words, the court will typically consider grandparents, siblings, and other close members of your family who are willing and able to assume guardianship.

However, there's typically no legal reason that you can't assign guardianship to a close friend instead. In these cases, you should talk closely with your candidate guardians to ensure they can take on the role and work with a lawyer to ensure the courts can fulfill your wishes. Non-family guardianship petitions may face opposition from family members, so planning is essential.

3. Your Child Has Special Needs

If your child has special needs, you want to ensure their guardian is ready, willing, and capable of giving them the necessary care. While courts will always consider these factors, you know your child best, and you will also better understand which family members or friends can meet these requirements. You can also work with your chosen guardian to ensure they're ready to perform these duties.

By consulting with a lawyer, you can ensure your child will go to a home that can give them the love and care they deserve and require. Taking the necessary steps to declare a guardian formally will avoid leaving these issues to chance and ensure a bright future for your child, no matter what may occur. 

For more information, contact a local guardianship lawyer


answers to legal questions about child custody

Child custody cases are difficult for the families, the lawyers and judges involved. Finding the best solution to a difficult problem while protecting the kids from as much emotional distress as possible isn't something that anyone ever wants to be a part of. Unfortunately, many marriages end badly and the parents have to come up with a custody plan that will be most efficient for the kids and the rest of the family. My blog is all about the legal aspects of child custody cases. You will find the answers to many of the questions that you have about the most difficult thing you will ever have to go through.