For a long time, guardianship was the preferred (and only) legal tool available to a third party (such as a friend or grandparent) to use to help them care for children left in their care. Grandparents’ rights are limited, and the recognition of a de facto custodian is only a recent legal development.
Guardianships are still viable legal tools to authorize a third party to care for children or incapacitated persons. A guardianship is filed in the probate court of the county in which the child lives. If granted, it allows the guardian to act for the child just as if he or she were the natural parent.
When Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. guardianship attorneys are consulted by a client seeking a guardianship, they carefully determine if this is the correct legal course. This is because a guardianship effectively expires or ends as soon as a parent, who could be out of the picture for a long time, returns and asks for the guardianship to terminate.
What we often find is that the children in such a third party’s care have become bonded with them and view him or her as akin to a parent. If this tie is suddenly terminated, the child is at risk for emotional or physical harm. For this reason, the guardianship attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates typically advise a more comprehensive approach.
This involves assessing whether the third party meets the legal standard to be a de facto custody. If this is the case, he or she may overcome the natural parent’s presumption and be awarded physical custody just like a parent.
Presumably, we all hope a parent or parents become and stay involved in their children’s lives. However, while Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. guardianship lawyers hope and expect the best for the clients they represent, they prepare for the worst. If a year or two passes and a parent shows up and demands the child, and this is not in the child’s best interests, at a minimum, the ground work is laid for a filing to seek de facto custody. If the third party has been awarded de facto custody, he or she may then help the parent to prudently re-engage with his or her child.
If you are considering a guardianship, you should partner with a lawyer knowledgeable in this area and also consider de facto custody status. Ultimately, there are multiple ways to help the third party, parent and child when and if a future need arises.
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