Guardianship of a minor is typically appropriate when a child is permanently living with someone other than a parent. This might occur if both parents died, or if one parent died and the other is incarcerated or otherwise absent. Guardianships of minors are often established when neither parent is able to provide a safe, secure home for the child because of drug abuse, alcoholism, and other serious personal problems.
The difference between guardianship and adoption is that guardianship does not sever the biological parents’ rights and responsibilities. Guardianship of a child means that a caregiver is responsible for the care and custody of the child. This arrangement allows the guardian to access services on behalf of the child. Unlike adoption, a birth parent can return to court at any time and ask for the guardianship to be terminated.
When a guardian is appointed for a minor child, the court may impose conditions. One common condition is a requirement that the guardian attend parenting classes. Courts sometimes require that grandparent guardians attend grandparent caregiver support groups. Not only are judges aware that parenting techniques have changed in recent years, but if the child’s parents are drug addicts, alcoholics, or abusive toward children, is may be appropriate to question why the grandparents will do a better job raising the grandchildren than they did raising their own children. Grandparents seeking guardianship should be prepared to address these issues.