When To Pursue Legal Guardianship

Deciding whether or not to pursue legal guardianship of another individual can be challenging, since it is a long process that requires a lot of responsibility. Here are some of the conditions that should be met before you pursue legal guardianship.

The Situation Requires It

There are some cases where a child or adult would be better off in your care. Even if the child's natural parents are still alive, you may be a better guardian if you can provide more stability and emotional protection, or if the child's home environment is unhealthy. For adults, you can take guardianship if the adult is incapacitated either by mental illness or physical handicap.

The Person is Eligible for Guardianship

Children need to be under 18 years old, and they can't have been emancipated by the court. If you want to take guardianship from the natural parents, you will need to first get a court order to have the child removed from the parents' care. This often requires an initial trial to show that the parents have neglected or abused the child. For adults, you also must show that the adult is legally incapacitated before considering legal guardianship.

Guardianship is the Best Option

Before going through the process of legal guardianship, you may want to consider whether it's your best or only option. Sometimes a smaller intervention works fine, such as having power of attorney over the other individual in order to make decisions for them. You also may want to consider a full adoption, since a legal guardianship leaves a window for the natural parents to reclaim custody of a child before the age of 18 if they can prove that they have corrected the problems that led to them losing custody.

You Have the Right Assets and Background

Finally, only consider becoming a guardian if you have a stable income and home environment. Before you receive full custody of a child, your background and employment history may be checked, and an inspector will come to your home to make sure it's safe for a child. Be sure that you are ready to support the child for many years to come before undertaking this process.

When all of the above conditions are true, then it may be wise to start the process of becoming a legal guardian. Find a good family lawyer to guide you through the next steps, which include starting the paperwork, proving your own assets and getting a home inspection, and attending a court trial.