Important Steps to Take When You Want to Become the Guardian for a Child

Legal child custody arrangements can be complex, and that’s especially true when people who are not a child’s biological parent want to seek custody or guardianship. The law provides paths for these types of arrangements, recognizing that it’s not always in a child’s best interest to remain with their parents or that, in some tragic cases, there may not be a parent present to care for the child.

Many times, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other loved ones or friends approach the idea of a guardianship with the best interests of the child and good intentions in mind. However, legal guardianship is a serious step to take, and it’s important to ensure you take time to consider all the factors and steps involved.

1. Understand What a Legal Guardianship Is

Begin by understanding what, exactly, a legal guardianship is. A legal guardianship is something that is ordered by the court, which means you have to go through the courts to get it. It is the right to care for a child or oversee the child’s interests as ordered by the court.

However, guardianship isn’t necessarily the same thing as custody. The relationships between guardianship and custody can be complex. For instance, it is possible for a parent to retain some type of custody rights while another person who is not a parent of the child is granted guardianship rights.

If you are considering what might be best for a child in your life, consider talking to a family law attorney about whether guardianship is even on the table and if it might be a good choice in your situation.

2. Determine Your Options and What Type of Guardianship Is Applicable

If guardianship does seem like the right step, consider what type of guardianship is applicable in your case. Are you seeking a somewhat permanent situation or a temporary guardianship due to a specific situation? You also need to know whether you are seeking guardianship with or without parental consent, as that changes the forms and processes required.

3. Understand Whether You Qualify

Next, take time to understand whether you qualify as a guardian. There are some limitations under Indiana law as to who a court can appoint guardian of a minor child.

You do have to be old enough to be a legal guardian, but you don’t have to be a relative of the child. Courts may want to see that there is an existing relationship between you and the child or children in question, and if you have already cared for them or are already caring for them in your home, that can help qualify you.

The law does now allow courts to appoint anyone as the guardian for a minor child if they have been convicted of certain crimes, including deviant conduct, rape, sexual misconduct with a minor, or child molestation.

4. Understand Whether the Situation Qualifies

Courts can’t appoint legal guardians in all cases. Certain types of pending cases, such as existing custody or paternity cases, take the front seat. If these types of matters are pending, you may need to wait for them to be resolved before you can try to seek guardianship. However, there are some other options that you might be able to employ, such as petitioning the court to become a third-party custodian, if you believe a child’s welfare is in question during such proceedings.

5. Determine Whether You Can Meet the Obligations

Before you petition the courts to appoint you as a guardian for a minor child, consider realistically whether you will be able to meet the obligations of such a position. Think about whether your health, housing, financial, social, and work situations will allow you to care for the child or children in a meaningful, healthy, and safe manner.

If you know that your current situation doesn’t allow for this and that you can’t make realistic changes to support a child in your life, you may want to talk to other loved ones about a better option.

6. Petition the Court to Appoint You as Guardian

If, after all of the above steps, you are ready to move forward with becoming a guardian for a minor child, it is time to petition the court. While the overall process is similar for each petition, the exact requirements depend on your situation. Working with an experienced family law attorney on your petition can help you create a better chance at success. Your lawyer can also work on your behalf to make an argument before the court or present appropriate documents and evidence to make a case that you are a good choice for guardian or that a guardianship is needed.

7. Uphold Your Responsibilities as Guardian

Once you are named guardian of a minor child, you will need to uphold your responsibilities. This obviously includes caring for the child or fulfilling any other role the court orders. You may also need to provide information or allow for visitations or other processes as ordered by the court.

Guardianships aren’t necessarily permanent roles, and courts can order changes if they believe you are not acting in the best interests of the child or fulfilling your duties.

If you believe it’s in the best interests of a child in your life for you to become their legal guardian, the team at the Deidra Haynes Law Office can help. Call us at 317-785-1832 to find out more.