Memphis Guardianship Attorney
In legal parlance, a “guardian” is an individual who is tasked with the care and management of a child. In other words, a child’s guardian makes decisions that affect the health and physical and emotional well-being of the child. This can include decisions such as:
- What school the child should attend;
- What extracurricular activities in which the child should participate;
- What medical care and treatment the child should receive and the medical providers who should provide this care;
- How to discipline the child;
- Other child-rearing decisions and issues.
The child’s parents are both considered the natural guardians of the child and enjoy the rights and responsibilities of a “guardian” so long as the parents are alive, are capable of making rational decisions on behalf of the child, and/or wish to exercise these rights and responsibilities.
An unexpected accident or illness, however, can leave you and the other parent incapable of acting as the child’s “guardian.” At such a time, another guardian would be needed to step in and take over the responsibility for caring for your child. Douglass & Runger, PLLC, Attorneys at Law, can assist you throughout this process.
Can A Parent Specify A Guardian For His Or Her Child?
The guardianship process exists to enable a court to appoint a qualified and appropriate guardian for children whose parents are no longer able to care for them properly (because of death, disease, or other reasons) and who have not designated a suitable guardian through a will or other legal documents. In other words, guardianship proceedings are primarily designed to benefit children for whom there is no suitable caretaker immediately available.
Parents can designate guardians for their children through a variety of means (although problems can arise if the parents create separate plans and do not select the same guardian). For example, parents of minor children can designate a guardian for their children in a will or other estate-planning document. So long as the guardian is of suitable age, and is able to care for the children and is willing to do so, courts will appoint the person designated by the parents to be the guardian of the children. The guardian would assume the role of the children’s primary caretaker upon the death of both of the parents.
Parents can also create a durable power of attorney and name a guardian within this document. In such a case (and unlike a will), the guardian would assume responsibility for the children once the durable power of attorney goes into effect (usually upon the disability or incapacity of the parent).
Finally, there are procedures available whereby both parents can voluntarily surrender their parental rights over to a guardian of their own choosing.
How Does A Court Appoint A Guardian?
If the parents have not designated an appropriate guardian for their children and the parents become incapacitated and unable to care for the children, or if the parents both die while the children are still minors, the court must undertake the duty of finding an appropriate guardian for the children. The court will typically look to family members but may rely on the advice of a guardian ad litem, an attorney appointed to represent the best interest of the children, in determining who is most suitable for caring for the children.