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Guardianships: How they help you help a child

If you're in a position where you'd like to take guardianship of a child, it's very important that you understand what guardianship means legally and how to enter into a binding guardianship relationship.

Guardianships don't necessarily take the place of parental rights. Children who need guardians may be placed in the care of aunts or uncles, grandparents or others, for instance, if their parents cannot care for them for a time. A guardian is expected to take care of the child's needs and to manage the finances of the child (in most cases).

Guardianship co-exists with the biological parents' rights. This is different than adoption, which is when the biological parents lose their parental rights and adoptive parents obtain them.

As a guardian, you should know that the guardianship can end if the child reaches the age of 18, guardianship is taken away by the courts, if the child's financial assets are exhausted and were the sole purpose of the guardianship or if the child passes away. You may ask to be relieved of guardianship if you do not wish to be a child's guardian. Keep in mind that to do that requires the court to appoint a new guardian for the child or children in the case.

It's a good idea to take on guardianship if you plan to take care of a child on a long-term basis. Without guardianship, it's hard for you to make decisions for the child, to enroll him or her in school or to provide medical care. Your attorney can give you more information on how a guardianship would benefit you.

Source: FindLaw, "FAQ on Guardianship of Minor Children," accessed May 24, 2018

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