How do I Petition for Guardianship?

Patrick Roland

Obtaining legal guardianship of another person, no matter whether they are children, adults or individuals with mental disabilities, is a lengthy process. If you petition for guardianship, you are asking a court to legally consider you responsible for the health and well-being of the individual in question. You must work with social workers, fill out paperwork and have a court date before a judge decides whether you are qualified for guardianship.

Petitioning for guardianship over another person will involve visits from a social worker.
Petitioning for guardianship over another person will involve visits from a social worker.

When you petition for guardianship, you generally will be requesting one of three things, either guardianship of a minor; guardianship of an adult, such as an elderly relative; or guardianship of a mentally disabled individual. Obtaining guardianship of an adult traditionally is the simplest of the three, and guardianship of children and the disabled normally is much more complicated. All three, however, follow basically the same pattern.

Guardians of the elderly need to be prepared to treat mental and emotional as well as physical issues caused by aging.
Guardians of the elderly need to be prepared to treat mental and emotional as well as physical issues caused by aging.

The first step in petitioning for guardianship usually is a home visit from a social worker. This is an opportunity for a government official to visit your home and do a background check on you and others living there. This is done in order to evaluate you and ensure that you are an appropriate choice for a guardian. It also is an opportunity for you to work on any negative aspects that the social worker finds, such as a lack of wheelchair access for elderly or disabled individuals, in order to create a more livable environment.

Guardianship might be petitioned to give shelter to a homeless child.
Guardianship might be petitioned to give shelter to a homeless child.

The next step as you petition for guardianship is filling out the appropriate paperwork. Your attorney should be able to acquire these, or you can visit the courthouse and get them yourself. These ask a variety of questions, usually pertaining to your history, your income, the stability of your home and any past criminal offenses.

Someone who takes on guardianship of an elderly person may be responsible for household chores.
Someone who takes on guardianship of an elderly person may be responsible for household chores.

The next steps involve you telling the current guardians, if any, about your intent to petition for guardianship. Anyone involved, including the child or adult in question, yourself and current guardians, will be expected to attend a court date with a family or probate court judge. At this time, you will be able to present to the court the reasons why you will be a responsible guardian and how the person in question's life will be improved by your care. This also could be an opportunity for social workers or the current guardians to state a case why you are not the best choice for this position. Based on the testimony, applications and evidence, the judge will either grant you guardianship or deny it.

In many cases, an elderly family member will have to be evaluated and deemed to be incompetent before guardianship can be granted.
In many cases, an elderly family member will have to be evaluated and deemed to be incompetent before guardianship can be granted.
The paperwork to petition for guardianship should be available at a local courthouse.
The paperwork to petition for guardianship should be available at a local courthouse.

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