If you are wanting to take over all parental duties, rights and responsibilities of a minor child in the place of the child’s parents, you must file a guardianship action in the Probate Department of the Superior Court. A guardianship action requires the showing that it would be detrimental for the child to remain with its parents and that it would be in the child’s best interests to live with you. Once a guardianship is granted, then it stays in place unless one of the parents successfully petitions the court to terminate the guardianship.
Sometimes the parents are incapable of providing for their child; or they are engaged in repeated acts of domestic violence; or they are abusing drugs; or they are incarcerated; or they are just not taking care of their child so either a grandparent, aunt or uncle, other adult sibling, or even a non relative will file for guardianship of the child. Sometimes one or both of the parents will consent to the guardianship or , if not, the matter will be litigated. The court will appoint the Court Investigator to interview the parties and child, to inspect the homes, to run criminal case checks, to interview school teachers or counselors. Sometimes the court will appoint an attorney to represent the interests of the child.
When it would be in the child’s best interests, the parents may have visitation with their child even after the guardianship is in place. This visitation is just that – visitation and in a guardianship action is NOT ordered for the purpose of eventual reunification of the child and the parents.
The burden of proof is also high when seeking to terminate a guardianship. The parents seeking return of their child must prove that the reasons that existed causing the guardianship to be necessary in the first place are now resolved. For example, if drug abuse was the problem, then the abusing parent must show a long history of rehabilitation and no use of drugs. Additionally, the parent must also show that it would be in the child’s best interest to terminate an otherwise successful guardianship. In other words, fixing the problem causing the need for the guardianship is not enough. The court is hesitant to upset the child’s life again so there is a high burden to convince the court to terminate the guardianship.
A duly appointed guardian steps into the shoes of the parent and is responsible for ensuring that the child is protected and well cared for. The guardian can provide health insurance for the dependent ward and manage all matters pertaining to the child’s health, education and welfare. If there are savings accounts, an annuity, social security benefits for the minor, then the guardian can also request a guardianship over the child’s estate as well as over the child’s person.