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Guardianship gives another person legal authority to make health care decisions, financial decisions, and property management decisions for people who are unable to make those decisions for themselves under guardianship proceeding.

This can be done for adults or for minor children.

In some instances, children under the age of 18 may be required to live with a legal guardian that is not their parent. Anybody who assumes legal guardianship of a minor has the responsibility of a legal parent. They must provide the child with food, housing, clothing, education, medical care, and any other basic needs. Guardianship of minors pertains to a legal relationship between a child under the age of 18 and an adult guardian. A guardianship doesn’t negate the legal relationship that exists between a child and their biological parents; instead, it co-exists with the relationship of the legal guardian.

There are many instances in which a minor child has come to live with a grandparent or aunt/ uncle. In order for this caregiver to provide care for the child and make legal decision, an order of guardianship is typically needed. While sometimes a child has been living with a relative for many years and there has been no issues, there are certain medical needs or financial assets, which would require an order of legal guardianship over the child. 

Guardianships can terminate according to the terms set in the guardianship agreement or automatically when certain events occur. Generally though, guardianships last until one of the following:

  • the guardian declares resignation

  • the child reaches adult age (most of the time 18), but can be extended with consent of the child

  • the child or guardian passes away

  • the child’s assets have been depleted.

  • A judge deems that guardianship no longer necessary, or

  • A judge determines that the guardianship no longer serves the child’s best interests

A guardianship is simply a legal relationship between a child and an adult who is not the biological parent of the child. It allows the guardian of the child to legally take care of the child as well as make decisions regarding the child’s life. An adoption on the other hand, is more permanent. In an adoption, the rights and obligations of the parent is terminated, and the adoptive parents substitute as the child’s legal parent. An adoption also triggers a new birth certificate to be issued naming the new adoptive parent as the childs legal parent(s). The adoptive parent becomes not just a guardian but the child’s actual parent under the law. This also means that the adoptive parent has full responsibility for the child’s health, there is also a set obligation to financially support the child. An establishment of the inheritance rights between an adoptive parent and the child are also set. The biological parents of the child have no parental obligations for the child at this point.

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