Guardianship of Children

When a parent dies or a child has been removed from a parent’s care by the Department of Human Services (DHS), the best solution for the child is often placement with a family member such as an aunt, grandparent, or even adult sibling. This protects the child’s relationship with other family members and provides security and continuity.
In many cases, the relative will choose to adopt the child. However, adoption isn’t always the answer. Some considerations that may lead family members to choose guardianship over adoption include:

  • The legal process of obtaining guardianship may be quicker and less expensive
  • Obtaining guardianship does not require termination of parental rights
  • A guardian who is already a relative may not want to confuse familial roles

Just call 269-978-6560.

What is Guardianship?

Legal guardianship places the guardian in a legal role that is very similar to that of a parent. While there are some distinctions, the fundamental rights and responsibilities of a parent vest in the guardian. For example, the guardian is responsible for the child’s day-to-day care and welfare, and has the authority to make decisions about the child’s education, medical care and other important matters, just as a custodial parent would.
Although family members are the most common legal guardians and are preferred by DHS, anyone interested in the welfare of a child may petition for appointment of a guardian. In fact, in the state of Michigan a child aged 14 or older can himself initiate a petition for appointment of a guardian.
While family members are favored, a simple blood relation is not enough to qualify a person for guardianship. The guardian must demonstrate to the court that he or she is equipped to adequately care for the child and is fit to serve in that capacity.
There are different types of guardianships of children in Michigan.

Permanent Legal Guardianship

A permanent legal guardianship is generally the best solution for an adult who expects and plans to raise the child to adulthood. The guardianship continues until the child reaches the age of majority unless terminated.
This type of guardianship is also often referred to as “full guardianship” or “general guardianship”. While a petition for full guardianship is underway, the court may appoint a temporary guardian.

Limited Guardianship

A limited guardianship may be created only with the consent of the parents or sole parent. Limited guardianships are typically created when a parent is temporarily unable to care for a child or has been deemed unfit by DHS but is working toward reunification.
Although a limited guardianship is intended to be temporary, it is not time-limited like a temporary guardianship. Rather, the termination of a limited guardianship depends upon successful completion of a plan associated with the guardianship. For example, in a case where DHS had removed the child from the parents’ care, termination of the limited guardianship might be contingent on the parents attending parenting classes, completing counseling, remaining drug free or otherwise addressing the problems that led to the removal.

Talk to a Kalamazoo Family Law Attorney

If you’re considering petitioning for guardianship, Attorney Tara L. Sharp is here to help. She will put her experience in family law to work for you, helping you to understand the differences between adoption and guardianship so that you can make an educated determination about which solution is right for your family. Then, whichever path you choose, she will guide you through the process to ensure that technical and procedural requirements don’t stand in the way of your family.
Call 269-978-6560 today to schedule your free guardianship consultation.

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