What is a Guardianship Order?

N. Madison
N. Madison

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.

A guardianship order may be granted because a child's parents are too ill to care for him or her.
A guardianship order may be granted because a child's parents are too ill to care for him or her.

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.

Guardianship orders may be given to protect children from an abusive situation.
Guardianship orders may be given to protect children from an abusive situation.

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.

A guardianship order may be granted in cases where the parent is deemed mentally unstable.
A guardianship order may be granted in cases where the parent is deemed mentally unstable.

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.

A parent with a serious substance abuse issue may have his children removed via guardianship order.
A parent with a serious substance abuse issue may have his children removed via guardianship order.

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.

A judge may order the involuntary termination of parental rights in cases that involve severe child abuse and neglect.
A judge may order the involuntary termination of parental rights in cases that involve severe child abuse and neglect.
A child's guardian may have many rights afforded to parents, but be prohibited from signing adoption agreements for the child.
A child's guardian may have many rights afforded to parents, but be prohibited from signing adoption agreements for the child.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

anon941907

My child is four years old and due to a previous relationship and its abuse,I have appointed my daughter a guardian.

Now that I am stable, I am prepared to bring her back with me, but still need a little more time to get things squared away. Her guardian has brought it to my attention that she needs a letter stating that I am indeed granting her indefinite guardianship and I need to know exactly what to write in my letter so that I can provide her with the care that she needs, but so I can still get her back by November of this year.

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