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A guardian is someone who has been appointed by a court to care for the property and/or physical well-being of someone, referred to as a ward, who is incapable of caring for himself or herself. Jurisdictions will differ somewhat with regard to what duty and authority a guardian has, as well as the precise legal proceedings required for being appointed a guardian. There are also many different types of guardianship, including guardianship of a minor, temporary guardianship, and emergency guardianship. As a rule, a guardianship lawyer will be involved in the process. A guardianship lawyer may represent the petitioner or the ward throughout the guardianship process.
Within the United States, state laws determine what type of guardianships are allowable, as well as the procedure for petitioning to be appointed a guardian. Generally, a petition by the potential guardian must be filed in the probate court in the county where the potential ward is a resident. The proper documents, including a petition and notice to the potential ward and his or her family, as a rule, must be filed with the court in order to begin the request to be appointed guardian.
Although a lawyer is not required at any point during a guardianship proceeding, a guardianship lawyer may be able to help a potential guardian determine which type of guardianship is appropriate under the circumstances. For example, if the ward is a minor, then the proceedings may be slightly different due to the fact that most jurisdictions handle matters related to minors as closed proceedings. In addition, if the situation warrants the appointment of a guardian immediately, then an emergency petition may need to be filed. By obtaining the services of a guardianship lawyer, the petitioner should be assured that he or she is filing the proper documents to accomplish the goal of being appointed a guardian.
Once the petition has been filed and the proper people notified of the petition, then the court will set the matter for a hearing. If the petition filed was based on an urgent need, however, then the judge may conduct a hearing within 24 hours, even if the proper people have not been served with notice. Regardless of when the hearing is held, a guardianship lawyer will accompany the petitioner to the hearing and present the petitioner's reasons for requesting that the court appoint him or her as guardian of the ward.
A potential ward is also entitled to legal counsel at a guardianship hearing. In some cases, the court will appoint a lawyer to represent the ward in order to ensure that the best interests of the potential ward are protected. Of course, a potential ward is also entitled to hire a guardianship lawyer of his or her choosing prior to the court appointing one.
A lot of those guardianship lawyers start out as child custody attorneys, divorce lawyers or family law attorneys and eventually make the jump to being guardianship and adoption attorneys.
Those areas are, frankly, quite enjoyable compared to general family law, divorce law and custody. Guardianships and adoptions are typically done exclusively for the welfare of a child and that is very different from doing things like helping one parent or another get custody (a process that can scar children for life, by the way).
A guardianship lawyer may not be required, but one can be very handy as establishing a guardianship over a minor is often a preliminary step toward filing for an adoption. The steps are rather like temporary guardianship, then permanent guardianship, then adoption.
A good guardianship attorney knows those steps well and can set up that process so it is easier for someone to move from being a guardian to an adoptive parent.
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