What is Guardianship
A guardian is a person or an agency that the court gives authority to be responsible for a child’s care.
Family Court may grant guardianship of a child 18 years of age or younger, or of an 18-21 year old with the young person’s consent. Guardianship is similar
to custody and to adoption. A person petitions to care for and be legally responsible for a child.
An adult relative, family friend, or a child protective agency may petition the court to be appointed the child’s guardian. Guardianship is the most extensive power, short of adoption, that a court can give a non-parent. It is not a permanent relationship; it ends automatic ally when the child reaches 18 years of age or 21 if the child consents or when the child marries or dies.
The child’s guardian can, among other things, obtain or consent to medical, educational, and mental health services; consent to marriage; consent to enlistment in the armed services; and consent to the inspection and release of confidential medical records.
Standby guardianship is a way for a terminally or seriously ill parent to plan for a child’s future. The parent selects who he/she wants to care for the child in the event that the parent dies. The parent makes this decision legally valid by signing a sworn statement of his/her wishes or by filing a petition in court. If the parent does die before the child reaches 18, the standby guardian must petition the court for guardianship. The guardian must serve the other parent, such as a legal father. If the surviving parent wants custody of the child, a fact finding hearing is conducted and the court makes a decision based on what is best for the child.
Guardianship of a child under age 18, or 18-21 with the young person’s consent, may be sought in Surrogate’s Court or Family Court, though these petitions are most often filed in Family Court.
Additionally, the Surrogate’s Court may grant guardianship of an adult who is mentally impaired and unable to care for him/herself.
In a guardianship hearing, the court takes testimony about the person seeking guardianship to determine whether it would be in the child’s best interests to allow that person to take responsibility for the child’s care. The court may consider the child’s wishes. Before the guardian’s appointment becomes permanent, the guardian will be fingerprinted and undergo a background check. A person with a prior child abuse or
child neglect case cannot be approved as a guardian.
To file a guardianship petition, the petitioner should bring:
The child’s birth certificate
The original death certificate (if the parent is deceased)
The applying parties proof of identification (picture ID)
Proof of residence.
Kinship Guardianship, or subsidized kinship guardianship, allows relatives who take
guardianship of children who have been in foster care to receive financial assistance. The
relative must be related to the child either by blood, marriage, or adoption; must be caring
for the child as a foster parent; and the child must have been in the relative’s home for at
least six months. While an order of guardianship is a determination made by the court,
the Administration for Children’s Services decides whether or not to provide financial
assistance to the guardian.