How to Get Guardianship of a Child
Children often need guardians when their parents die or are otherwise unable to care for them. Guardianship is a legal relationship that allows an adult to make decisions for a minor, often like a parent would.
If you are interested in seeking guardianship, you should contact Surasky Law Firm today. There is a legal process to follow, and you should think carefully before you choose to serve in this role. Being a guardian is in many ways the same as being a parent, with similar duties and powers. If you are interested in raising a child relative, then you can seek kinship care.
How to Get Guardianship of a Child
You can seek guardianship of a minor in South Carolina by filing a petition in the Family Court. You will also have to pay a filing fee and serve a copy on the parents if they are alive.
To serve as a guardian, you must be an adult. You should also consider whether you have the qualifications to serve, such as the resources to raise and pay for a child. A judge will also consider how responsible you are by looking at your criminal history. Recent convictions will work to your disadvantage.
Seeking Kinship Care in South Carolina
Many people hope to serve as a legal guardian for a family member, like a grandchild, niece, or nephew. The Department of Social Services (DSS) might have removed a child from their parent’s household due to concerns over neglect or abuse. This often happens when a child’s parents no longer live together, and the one with custody has a drug addiction or other issue preventing them from properly raising the children.
The Department might reach out to family members to establish kinship care. You should work with the Department if you want to have a child live with you and be responsible for them. Kinship care can be temporary or permanent.
Seeking Guardianship when Parents Object
It is very difficult to obtain guardianship if one or both parents are still living. A judge will only appoint a guardian if:
· The parents have abandoned the child
· The parents consent to the guardianship
· The judge finds that it is in the child’s best interest to not live with the parents but to have a guardian
Often, guardianships are necessary when one parent has disappeared, and the remaining parent has difficulties properly taking care of the children. The parent with custody might object to guardianship, but even here, it is still possible to get guardianship if the parent is unfit. As mentioned above, DHSS often gets involved in these cases, so you can work with the Department. DHSS has also approved kinship care for people who are not blood relatives but nonetheless play an important role in the child’s life.
Naming Guardians in a Will
Parents can also name guardians in their will in the event they die while their children are minors. This is a popular way of naming a guardian and gives parents peace of mind that their children will be taken care of by someone they trust. Ideally, parents should also name an alternate guardian in case your first choice predeceases you or otherwise can’t step in.
A guardian might also step in and raise your children if you ever become incapacitated. For example, you might get into an accident and be in a coma for years, in which case the guardian named in your will can raise your children.
Understanding a Guardian’s Duties
In many ways, a legal guardian acts as a parent. As a guardian, you have certain responsibilities, such as:
· Providing food and shelter for a child
· Seeking and giving approval for medical care
· Attending parent-teacher meetings at school
· Keeping a child out of legal trouble
· Being legally liable in certain situations if a child damages property or harms someone
Even if you are awarded guardianship, the biological parents might still remain a presence in the child’s life. They often continue to have visitation with the child, which you must honor. You will need to make the child available at the appointed time and place for visitation with one or both parents.
You also have certain powers. You can approve whether a child participates in after-school activities and whether you agree that they can receive medical care. The state can also remove a child from a guardian for many of the same reasons they remove children from the home of their biological parents.
Guardianship and Adoption
Some guardians ultimately seek to adopt the minor. That is a possibility, and we see that happen all the time. However, before you can adopt, the parental rights must be terminated. Parents can voluntarily give up these rights or, more likely, a judge can terminate them. Work closely with a family law attorney at Surasky Law Firm if you are seeking to adopt the minor in your care.
Do You Want to Be Appointed Conservator for a Minor?
With a conservatorship, an adult can manage a minor’s finances. This might make sense if a child has come into quite a bit of money or assets and has no parents. For example, a child’s parents might die, leaving their estate to him. The child needs a conservator to manage the assets because they are too young to do so on their own, and their guardian might be overwhelmed or incapable of doing so.
You can seek conservatorship by filing a Petition for Appointment of Conservator in the Probate court. You will also need to serve notice on the minor before you can schedule a Notice of Hearing.
A conservator has a duty to provide an annual accounting to the probate court. The court supervises the conservator to ensure that they are doing their job properly.
Some people are unsure whether they are seeking guardianship of the minor or conservatorship or whether they should try to fulfill both roles. An attorney can help advise you on what legal relationship to seek.
Contact Our Aiken Family Law Attorney
We can answer any questions you have about legal guardianship, kinship care, and conservatorship. Contact us to schedule a confidential meeting.