Guardianships give legal custody of a child to a non-parent when the parents are unable or unwilling to take care of their child. Parents can agree to a voluntary guardianship or the court can decide the parents are unfit and enter the guardianship even if the parents object.

Grandparents are often given guardianship of their grandchildren, but a biological relationship between the guardian and the child is not legally required.

Guardianships are also used when special needs children turn eighteen, but still need a custodian to handle their affairs, or when an adult suffers from dementia, an injury, or illness that leaves them in need of a guardian.

When Guardianship is Necessary

  • The parents have abandoned their child with a family member or friend.

  • The parents are abusing drugs or alcohol, and as a result their child’s basic needs are not being met.

  • A parent is abusing the child, or a parent is not protecting the child from the abuse of another.

  • The parent has untreated mental illness that is affecting their ability to parent their child.

  • DHS is investigating the parents for abuse or neglect and has decided to place the child in foster care unless a family member or friend gets legal guardianship of the child.

  • The parents are deceased, deployed, incarcerated, or in rehab.

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