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Frequently Asked Questions: Guardians

Guardians can be useful tools for protecting children, providing for their needs, and protecting assets that may be in the children’s names. But what exactly are guardians, and how do guardianships work? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding guardianships, along with their answers:

What Is a Guardian?

A guardian is a caretaker. Typically, a guardian is responsible for a child’s personal needs (like food, shelter, medical care, educational needs, etc.) and may have other duties as assigned by a court or as requested by parents. Guardians often are personally acquainted with the children for which they are responsible in order to provide care for the children’s physical and mental health, custody, and possessions. A family or a court may establish guardianship for a child for a variety of reasons.

How Is Guardianship Different from Adoption or Parenthood?

Parenthood and adoption are different in that they permanently alter the relationship between the child and the adult. For instance, adoption terminates biological parental rights and obligations to the child and grants new ones to the adoptive parents. Parenthood produces a legal relationship in which the biological parent is responsible for financial support and provisions to the child. But with a guardianship, a legal relationship between a child and an adult is established, but it does not terminate or fundamentally change the legal relationship between the child and his or her biological parents.

Why Might Guardianship Be Used?

A guardianship may be used to supply a guardian to a child who otherwise does not have appropriate parental supervision or care. Alternatively, if a child has substantial assets in his or her own name (for example, through an inheritance), a guardian may be appointed to oversee them, as courts are hesitant to turn over property and assets of a child to his or her own parents without oversight. In general, guardians serve to protect the interests of children in matters of legal importance, like the children’s own care or parenting or maintenance of the children’s assets or possessions.

What about Guardians ad Litem?

Guardian ad litem is a specific type of guardianship used for court purposes. The guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent the child in court proceedings in which the minor has an interest (for instance, in contested custody cases). A guardian ad litem is not the same as an attorney, and in fact, need not even have a legal background. They work to gather information about the child’s life and wellbeing, and report to the court to help determine parenting or other rights in a manner that fits the best interests of the child. Florida has a guardian ad litem program for each county that provides trained guardians ad litem for court cases.

Guardianships can be difficult to navigate and execute. But at Schwartz | White, our experienced Boca Raton family law attorneys can assist you. The help of a qualified family lawyer can help protect children’s and adults’ rights in legal conflicts. Call 561-391-9943 today for a consultation.

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