People under 18 sometimes need an adult to assume decision-making responsibility for them, manage their money and property, or both. Their parents may have died, been incarcerated, or are not competent enough to manage their affairs.
Establishing the guardianship of a minor in South Miami can be complex, but a skilled guardianship attorney can guide you through it.
Distinguishing Types of Guardianship
Someone under 18 has no legal rights to manage their own affairs, so a guardian of a minor is not taking rights away from them. Even so, courts try to limit a child’s vulnerability by restricting a guardian’s rights to the extent possible while still protecting the child, who is called a ward. The guardian must always act in the best interests of the ward.
A guardian of the person can make decisions about where the ward lives, where they go to school, and how they spend their time. The guardian of the person can consent to healthcare on the ward’s behalf, make decisions regarding special education, and take other steps to support the child’s health, educational progress, and emotional well-being. A guardian of the property, meanwhile, manages all the child’s assets, including their finances. Even if the child has a living parent or legal guardian, the court could still appoint a guardian of the property.
A Judge could name one person to be guardian of the person and property. This is more likely if the child’s parents are dead or not involved in their life for some other reason. Notably, the child does not necessarily live with their guardian. For example, an orphaned child might live with their grandparents, but an aunt or uncle might be the child’s guardian.
Pre-Need Guardianship Directives
Sometimes, a parent knows they will not be there to care for their child. Perhaps they have a fatal disease, or they have been sentenced to prison. The law allows a parent to designate a guardian to raise their child by completing a form called a pre-need guardianship directive. Parents also can include a pre-need guardianship directive in their will.
The guardian can be any Florida resident at least 18 years old who has never had a felony conviction, or been convicted of child abuse or other crimes against a child. The guardian can reside in another state if they are a blood relative to the child or married to a blood relative. A parent cannot name a creditor or anyone else with a potential conflict of interest as a preneed guardian.
When there is a need to begin the guardianship, the named guardian must file a notice with the court. Any living parent or legal guardian, and the person the child lives with, must have noticed of the filing. If no one objects, the Judge will confirm the guardian. If someone objects, the court will hold a hearing and each side can present arguments for or against the guardian’s appointment. A South Miami attorney can represent a party to a minor guardianship hearing.
Responsibilities of a Minor’s Guardian
If a guardian fails to act to protect the child’s interests, the guardian can be held accountable in the courts. A family member or someone representing the ward could take legal action against a guardian who is allegedly failing in their duty to the ward.
However, a ward cannot remove a guardian and a guardian cannot quit. According to Florida Statute § 744.474, a Judge could remove a guardian for misconduct. If a guardian wants to quit, they must propose a successor guardian and wait for the successor to assume their duties before quitting. It is wise to seek counsel from a South Miami lawyer if there is a need to install a successor guardian to a minor.
Although the ward is a minor, they have some rights. Fundamentally, they are entitled to live free of abuse and neglect, to receive appropriate food, shelter, and clothing, and to have their educational and healthcare needs met. As a ward ages and matures, like other teenagers, they may seek more influence over their lives. A guardian may consult with a ward, but ultimately must make the decision that best serves the ward’s interests, even if it is not the decision the ward desires.
Seek Help on Minor Guardianship Issues From a South Miami Attorney Today
Children usually do not need guardians unless they have suffered a major disruption or trauma. Guardianship can be challenging, but it is a precious service to a child who does not have anyone else to offer protection.