Family members and close friends often encounter situations in which they need to take care of each other. Sometimes grandparents have to raise their grandchildren. Sometimes adults have to care for their elderly relatives. Other times, siblings and cousins need to look after someone who is ill. During these times, legal guardianship may be appropriate. Yet guardianship is not appropriate in every situation. Contact our experienced Naperville guardianship attorneys at Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. to learn more about this relationship.
What is Guardianship?
Guardianship creates a legally binding relationship between a guardian, who must be a legally competent adult, and a minor or disabled adult. It places a great deal of responsibility on the guardian’s shoulders and ensures the minor or disabled adult receives the care he or she needs.
Individuals can become guardians over:
- Minors who cannot physically, psychologically, and/or legally take care of themselves yet, and
- Disabled adults who, due to a mental, physical, or developmental limitation, cannot be independent. This includes adults who were born with a disability, who became severely injured in an accident, who have a mental illness, and those who have declining capabilities due to age.
Guardianship over a child may closely resemble a parental relationship. It is often a situation in which the biological parents are unable, unfit, or unwilling to retain their parental responsibilities and time. It could be a permanent or temporary situation. However, guardianship can also be a literal parent-child relationship. Parents of permanently disabled children must obtain guardianship when their children turn 18 to continue making decisions for them.
Guardianship over an adult is slightly different. A court decides one adult cannot manage his or her life independently. Instead, another adult should be able to make decisions for him or her. This is a serious situation that courts do not take lightly. Placing a guardian over an adult takes away that adult’s power and independence. Courts must be sure that the disabled adult cannot make basic life decisions or manage his or her own money or property before ordering a guardianship.
Types of Guardianship
There are numerous types of guardianship relationships for situations involving children and disabled adults. It is not always an all-encompassing or permanent relationship – though it can be.
In situations involving children, there may be a:
- Short-term guardian, who cares for a child for less than one year.
- Permanent legal guardian, who can make all types of decisions for the minor throughout the duration of the guardianship.
- Guardian ad litem, who is responsible for reviewing a situation and offering an opinion on what is in the child’s best interests during a legal dispute.
- Standby guardian, who is appointed by a parent to take care of the child when the parent becomes too sick to do so or passes away.
In situations involving disabled adults, there may be a:
- Guardian of the person, who makes personal, day-to-day decisions for the disabled adult.
- Guardian of the estate, who makes decisions regarding the disabled adult’s money and property.
When it appears that a minor does not have an appropriate caregiver or an adult is unable to care for themselves, then another adult can seek to obtain guardianship over that minor or other adult in court. To be a guardian, an individual must be a U.S. resident, at least 18 years old, legally competent, and not have any felony convictions involving harm or threat to a child. He or she does not have to be related to the minor or disabled adult, though this is common.
The adult who believes guardianship is necessary must file a petition in court and schedule a hearing for within the next 30 days. This petitioner must then properly serve the legal paperwork to the disabled person and interested parties, like parents, grandparents, or other relatives.
If the proceeding is for a minor, the petitioner must bring evidence of the parents’ deaths, lack of parental rights, or willingness to agree to guardianship. If the minor is 14 or older, he or she must attend the hearing. If the proceeding is for guardianship of a disabled adult, then the petitioner must obtain and provide to the court a physician’s report on the allegedly disabled adult’s physical and mental incapacity.
Let Our Guardianship Attorneys Help You
There is a lot of free advice and paperwork online in regard to the Illinois guardianship process. However, none of the free resources are comprehensive or tell petitioners what to expect during this legal process. Concerned adults should contact us at Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. to learn more about this option, whether it is appropriate for their situation, and how to move forward.
Contact us today at 630-961-0060 to schedule an initial consultation.