Understanding The Four Categories of Guardianships and Minors
There are many circumstances that may cause parents to be unable to tend to the best interests of their minor child. In these situations, a guardianship will be granted by the probate court.
Guardianships are legal relationships where a guardian is appointed by the court or a will to manage a minor child’s person by making necessary decisions about medical care, daily living, and residence. Aside from the natural guardian, or parent with custodial rights, there are four categories of guardianships for minors (O.C.G.A. § 29-2-1).
In circumstances when parents are unable to care for their children, a temporary guardian will be appointed to make decisions on behalf of the child. Often, this guardian will be a relative or friend, who will care for the child until the custodial parent(s) is able to resume his or her role.
When both parents are deceased or have had their parental rights terminated, a permanent guardian will granted. The termination of parental rights is different than loss of custody, as it is a permanent ruling that cannot be amended later.
Some parents may choose to nominate a testamentary guardian in his or her will. In this case, upon the death of that parent and assuming that there is no other living parent, the named guardian will receive the letters of guardianship without a court hearing.
Parents may also choose to legally name a standby guardian, who will care for the child if the custodial parent or parents become incapacitated. In this case, a medical doctor must certify that the parent(s) has become incapacitated. If this event never occurs, then the standby guardianship never takes effect.
Whether specific circumstances have occurred or you’re planning for the future, guardianships for minors are designed to protect children when their parents are unable to. However, not all guardians properly fulfill their role. When named as a guardian, the individual has a legal fiduciary responsibility to the minor child. This means that they are required by law to act in the best interest of the child.
If you are establishing a guardianship or are concerned that a guardian is not fulfilling his or her fiduciary responsibility, it’s essential to get legal guidance from an expert who specializes in the field.
For more information or to request a free case evaluation, call our law office at (770) 822-0900. We have been very successful at reaching the best possible outcome for our clients, and our attorneys are here to help you through this difficult and stressful time.