To establish a guardianship, start by filing guardianship papers in court. A court investigator will interview you, the child, and his or her parents if they are alive and available. The investigator will then make a recommendation to the judge. The judge will review the case and decide whether to appoint you, most likely after a hearing. The court must find that the appointment is in the best interests of the child.
If you want to name a guardian for your own children, in case you aren't around to take care of them, use a will to name the person you want to take care of them.
Maintaining Guardianship - You should ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want the ongoing responsibilities of a legal guardianship -- including potential liability for the child's actions?
- If you'll be managing the child's finances, are you willing to keep careful records, provide a court with periodic accountings, and go to court when you need permission to handle certain financial matters?
- What kind of personal relationship do you have with the child? Do you want to act as the legal parent of this child for the duration of the guardianship?
- What kind of relationship do you have with the child's parents? Will they support the guardianship, or will they more likely be hostile, antagonistic, or interfering?
- Will the guardianship adversely affect you or your family because of your own children, health situation, job, age, or other factors? Do you have the time and energy to raise a child?
- What is the financial situation? If the child will receive income from Social Security, public assistance programs, welfare, a parent, or the estate of a deceased parent, will this be enough to provide a decent level of support? If not, are you able and willing to spend your own money to raise the child?
- Do you anticipate problems with the child's relatives - including parents - who may suddenly reappear and contest the guardianship? This is rare, but it can happen.