How to Become the Guardian of a Minor Child

The desire of the family law courts in Indiana is to ensure the safety and well-being of children. When that can’t be ensured in a parental home, other options can include foster care, guardianship, or adoption. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to these matters, and family law courts take into account a wide variety of input before ruling on them.

If you are in a position to care for a child that may need you, understanding how to become a legal guardian for that child might be on your mind. First, you should know that a legal guardianship isn’t necessarily required for you to provide a home and loving care for a child, especially one that you are related to. However, putting some formal legal structure around the situation can provide peace of mind and help you protect the child.

What Is Involved in Becoming the Guardian of a Minor Child?

You will need to file forms to petition the court to name you as the guardian of a minor child. The rules you must follow and the steps to take can vary depending on which county you are in, so it’s a good idea to work with attorneys for Guardianship in Indianapolis through this process. In fact, in some cases, the courts might require that you have an attorney.

You’ll need to make a case before the court that appointing you as guardian is in the best interest of the child or children involved. Before you can move forward, however, you must also provide notification that you are seeking guardianship to any living parents of the child or children. This is true even if the child isn’t currently living with the parent.

If you don’t have a way to contact one or both of the parents, then you have to follow legal requirements in publishing notice. This involves publishing your intent to seek guardianship status in an appropriate newspaper.

You will also have to demonstrate that you meet the requirements for guardianship. That includes demonstrating that you have the ability to care for the child—including his or her emotional, mental, educational, and physical needs.

When Might a Guardianship Be Appropriate?

Guardianships are only one option, and they may not be the best approach to all situations. Some factors that tend to increase the success of guardianship requests include:

  • The child has lived with you for six months or more in a stable environment
  • The child has expressed that they don’t want to be adopted and/or parental rights can’t be terminated for any reason
  • There is a continued benefit for the child to maintain his or her relationship with parents and others within the birth family
  • You are unable or unwilling to adopt the child but are able to provide a permanent home

While guardianship may be considered in a variety of scenarios, it’s often a better solution for older children.

Who Can Become a Guardian?

Often, people who become guardians are relatives of the child or children in question. However, this is not required.

A guardian must have cared for the child or children in their home for some time and demonstrated that the placement is stable. Courts also look for a strong attachment between the child and the potential guardian and may require a review of the guardian’s ability to care for the child in the future.

Do You Need Parental Consent?

You don’t need parental consent to become a guardian. However, the process and the forms required are different in cases without parental consent. You may also have to contend with a parent providing arguments against the guardianship if the reason they won’t consent is that they don’t agree to it.

Does a Guardianship Terminate Parental Rights?

Guardianships do not require parental rights to be terminated. In many cases, the courts may look to guard parental rights and support an ongoing connection between the parents and the child or children. Parental rights would only be terminated if doing so was deemed to be in the best interests of the child, such as if the parents still having these rights presented a serious danger to the child.

Some rights parents may retain include having access to the child’s medical records or being able to make decisions about the child’s future. They may also have visitation rights, and guardians may want to seek to have these spelled out in court orders.

Talk to a Family Law Attorney About Your Potential Guardianship Situation

Any situation that involves a minor child living away from the parental home or homes is likely complex. They also involve unique factors that should be carefully considered before moving forward with any decisions about the child’s legal guardianship and future.

By talking with an experienced family law attorney, you can understand your options for protecting a minor child in your life. A lawyer can also help you complete guardianship forms if that is the best option for you and present your case before the court. By paying attention to the legal details, you can increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Reach out to the Law Office of Deidra Haynes to make an appointment and discuss guardianship matters today. You can call us at 317-785-1832 to schedule a consultation.