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.