Types of Guardianship 419

Your Rights and Responsibilities As A Guardian

In its broadest interpretation, the term “guardian” is used to refer to parents, whether biological or adoptive or other legal custodians of children. However, there are actually several different types of guardianship, some of which can be awarded while the parental rights remain in tact.

A Guardian Ad Litem for example, refers to a person (typically an attorney) who is charged with representing the child’s best interest during a legal proceeding. The attorney is separate from any counsel representing the other parties so that there is no conflict of interest. The Guardian Ad Litem’s authority ends when the legal proceedings are over.

A Guardian of the Estate (or Conservator) is a person designated by the court to oversee the child’s financial matters. This person may be the parent or primary guardian or it may be an unbiased third party such as an accountant or attorney. The Guardian of the Estate is responsible for making sure that the child’s money and/or property is properly managed. This is commonly found in the case of child celebrities where the child makes considerably more than the parents and/or the parents’ management of the assets have come into question.

The Guardian of the Estate’s authority lasts until the court deems it is no longer necessary.

A Guardian of the Person would be responsbile for handling everything outside of the child’s property and finances. This person would be responsible for making decisions about medical care, education and other factors and events that would effect the child’s life. In the example of a child celebrity as used above, the Guardian of the Person might be the parents while an accountant might be given the title of Guardian of the Estate.

Plenary Guardianship is perhaps the closest legal definition for the rights and responsibilities that are naturally assumed with parenthood. A Plenary Guardian oversees both the “person” as well as the “estate” meaning that they make just about all the decisions on the child’s behalf. The only limitation to this type of guardianship would be a condition that was stipulated by the court.

An Emergency Guardian is just what it sounds like – a person who is awarded guardianship in an emergency situation. This might be a foster parent, an attorney, a relative or other adult who is given the responsibility of caring and supervising the child until a long-term guardian can be appointed. This type of guardian is typically called in when the child’s immediate welfare is at stake, such as when parental abuse is suspected.

An Interim Guardian is a temporary guardian designated by the courts until a permanent or replacement guardian can be found. A good example of an interim guardian would be a foster parent.

A Limited Guardian is one who is given authority over a specific aspect of the child’s life but nothing else. An example of this type of guardianship would be where the parents oppose certain medical proceedings and/or testing but the court decides the procedures would be in the child’s best interest. In this case, they might designate a physician to be a Limited Guardian with respect to the child’s medical care. The parents still maintain all other forms of guardianship but in this instance, the Limited Guardian would have the final say on matters relating to medical treatment.

These different types of guardianship can be mixed and matched to suit the specific needs of the child in question. In addition, two people can share one or more types of guardianship for a child. In this instance, the parties would be known as “co-guardians“.


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