A guardianship order is a court order giving an adult legal guardianship over another person. In many cases, guardianship orders are granted to place children in the care of a competent adult. This is not always the case, however, as adults may also have guardians. Often, guardianship orders that involve children end when the child has reached legal adult age; those involving adults may be indefinite or have other parameters that determine the ending date. Guardianship orders can be either temporary or permanent, and laws governing them vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Guardianship orders are often prepared and granted in cases involving children. For example, this type of order may be granted when a child cannot remain in the care of his parents for some reason. A guardian may be appointed, for instance, if a child’s parents are dead or incapacitated. Sometimes, a guardianship order is even granted because a child’s parents are abusive, mentally ill, abuse alcohol, or are addicted to drugs. Often, guardianship orders are intended to remain in effect until a child reaches his jurisdiction's legal age of adulthood, but some are only intended to be temporary.
When it comes to children, people may think guardianship orders are only granted when a child’s parents are unfit or entirely absent. This is not the case, however. A guardianship order may be granted because a child’s parents will be traveling for an extended period of time and will be unable to care for him. Likewise, these orders may be granted because a child’s only parent is too ill or injured to care for him. Often, in such cases, a temporary guardianship order is granted to allow another adult to care for the child until his parent is able to take on the task once more.
Sometimes guardianship orders are granted for legal adults as well. This may occur when a court determines that an adult is unable to make sound decisions for himself or act competently on his own behalf. In such a case, a guardian may be appointed to make decisions for the adult. These decisions may include anything from deciding where the person will live to providing consent for health care.
The rights and responsibilities a guardian has are typically explained in detail in a guardianship order. For example, a child's guardian may have many of the same rights afforded to the parents but be prohibited from signing adoption agreements for the child. In the case of guardianship of a child, the guardian is usually expected to have physical custody of the child as well. When the guardianship involves an adult, however, the guardian may have the responsibility for deciding where the person in his charge will live, but this may not require the guardian to provide physical care. Guardianship terms vary based on the jurisdiction and the particulars of the case.