Sometimes, for a number of reasons, biological parents are unable or unwilling to care for their children. When this happens, it is necessary for someone else to take responsibility for the child.

Perhaps you are an extended family member or close friend who has assumed a caretaking role after a parent left a child with you. If that is the case, you should consider becoming a legal guardian.

  1. What can you do for a child as a legal guardian that you would not be able to do otherwise?

Becoming a legal guardian gives you the authority to make decisions on behalf of a child in your care. This provides you the necessary standing to be able to enroll the child in school and obtain medical care when the need arises.

  1. How does a guardianship affect the child’s legal relationship with his or her parents?

A guardianship co-exists with the legal relationship between parent and child. Unlike adoption, it does not alter the legal parent-child relationship in any way. Another way to look at it is thus: Becoming a guardian grants you certain rights in regard to the child, but it does not take away any rights from the parents.

  1. How does a guardianship end?

If the court determines that the child no longer benefits from the guardianship, or that the guardianship is no longer necessary, a judge may end it. Once the child reaches the age of 18, or the legal age of majority in a particular jurisdiction, the guardianship will come to an end. Furthermore, although it is obviously an undesirable outcome, the guardianship will end in the unfortunate circumstance of the child’s death.

  1. Does guardianship always involve a caretaking role?

Not necessarily. Sometimes a guardianship exists for the sole purpose of managing a child’s finances rather than seeing to his or her physical needs and daily care.

Becoming a guardian can be fraught with emotional as well as legal complications. Ultimately, taking on the role of a guardian can be both challenging and rewarding.