If you are seeking guardianship of an adolescent or minor under 17 years of age, navigating the process can be difficult. Whether you’re a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or any other interested party seeking guardianship, a New York family law attorney can help you understand the process and ensure the best outcome for your case.
A guardian or “legal guardian” is a person or agency that has full authority to be responsible for a child’s care. These rights may be granted to a child under 18 years of age, or 18-21 years old if the young person consents.
This is very similar to custody and adoption. A person petitions the court to be legally responsible for the care of their child – their “guardian.” They have the same legal power as a parent to make decisions for the child.
However, unlike adoption, this is not a permanent relationship. The guardianship typically ends when:
Adult relatives, close family friends, and child protective agencies can all petition for guardianship.
Guardianship may be granted in a variety of situations. For example, if both of a child’s parents die, the child may need a guardian. Or, if one or both parents are deported but the child remains in the U.S., a guardian may be needed for their welfare.
Guardianship may also be provided if a child is being abused and/or is in an unstable living environment that is not in their “best interests.” Before a legal guardian can be appointed, both parents and the child (if over 14) must consent, though guardians can be appointed without parental consent or the child’s consent in some situations.
A parent can also apply for a “standby guardianship” if they are sick and will not be able to take care of the child in the future. In this case, the guardianship does not take effect until the parent says that it will – for example, if they die, or become too ill to take care of the child.
To begin the process, you must file a “Petition for Appointment of Guardian” in the county where the child lives. You will need to bring:
To determine the validity of the guardianship claim, a guardianship hearing will be held.
In a guardianship hearing, the court will determine if it’s in the child’s “best interests” to allow them to become their guardian.
This will be based on your testimony, the evidence about the child’s circumstances, and the child’s wishes, and all other applicable circumstances, such as the death or incapacity of one or both parents. Then, the court will make a ruling and issue “letters of guardianship.”
Before the guardian’s appointment can become permanent, they will have to undergo fingerprinting and background checks. Any person with a previous child abuse or neglect case cannot become a guardian.
At New York Family Law Group, Martin Mohr and Ethan Steward have years of experience with guardianship cases, and have helped relatives and family friends obtain guardianship even in difficult, contested situations. If you wish to become the guardian of an adolescent, contact us now for a case review and consultation, and see how we can assist you throughout the process.