Let's face it: we don't live in a perfect world. Life often throws us unexpected curveballs that either (a) completely derail us, sending us into chaos; or (b) force us to readjust our plans. One of these less-than-perfect situations arises from the sudden loss of or inability of parents to care for their child. The best way to end up in the better situation (b) is to understand the appropriate next step — guardianship — or find an attorney who does.
What is a guardian?
A guardian is an individual, usually an adult relative or family friend, or a child-protective agency, appointed by a court to have legal power to take care of a child. A guardian has the same powers as a parent normally has to make decisions about a child’s welfare.
When is a guardian needed?
A guardian is needed when a parent(s) dies, goes to prison, is in the military, or is too ill to take care of the child.
Who can be a guardian?
Anyone over the age of 18, usually a relative or friend. A child over the age of 14 can even become a guardian for himself.
How does one become a guardian?
A parent can name a guardian in a will, or the party seeking guardianship can file a petition in Surrogate’s Court or Family Court in the county where the child lives.
The following documents should be presented:
Proof of identification, preferably a picture ID, and proof of residence
Birth certificate for the child
If the parent(s) are deceased, the original Death Certificate
If the parent(s) are alive but unable to come to court, they should complete and sign Form 6-4
If the child is over 14 years of age and unable to come to court, Form 6-3 should be filled out
Next, the court will hold a hearing to decide whether it is in the child's best interest to grant the guardian the sole responsibility of caring for the child. If the child is over 14 years of age, the court may also take his or her testimony regarding personal preferences.
Making sure that a child is well cared for is the most important