GRANDPARENT AND INTER-FAMILY GUARDIANSHIPS
Grandparent and Inter-Family Guardianships
Guardianships are closer to adoption than they are to custody, as you are not changing custody between parents, but between a parent and a non-parent. Unlike in custody cases, a contested guardianship is not simply based on the “best interests of the child” standard. To the contrary, the one seeking the guardianship must show that the child would face actual harm if left in the custody and care of a parent. Guardianships are meant to be temporary fixes. It is a step down from a deprivation action, and it can be slower than that action. To find out about private deprivation actions where there is an immediate danger to a child, read more here.
Guardianships are actually uncontested more often than they are a fight. Unlike deprivation actions where a parent is alleged to have done something wrong, a guardianship is a statement that the child needs someone else to care for the child for any number of reasons. Whether a parent is deployed and needs family to help with a child or the parent has medical needs that will make custody difficult, a guardianship is designed to put another place in charge of the child while the parent takes care of a life situation.
Uncontested guardianships are simple and inexpensive to create. $1,200.00 plus the costs (filing fees/court costs) covers the legal work, presuming both parents agree and sign off on a guardianship (unless only one parent has legal custody, and then that parent is the only one that must sign). (More details would be explained in a legal services agreement.) Uncontested guardianships typically allow the parent to notify the Court when the parent no longer wants the guardianship in place, and if there are no objections, the guardianship would end.
In the event of a contested guardianship, the petitioner must show that the child would face harm if the guardianship did not issue and that the parent is incapable of helping the child at this time. The parent can claim that the problem is resolved at any time and request a hearing to remove the Guardianship, but they must show that they are capable of caring for the child to win a challenge.
Guardianship is the step we often choose as the first step when it is apparent that an adoption will likely be the end result, but we need to establish the need for a guardianship first. If the parent does not turn things around, a petition can be made for adoption. However, it is typically not recommended that a family adoption without the consent of the parents be pursued for the first few years in most situations. Building a history is a very important step in that process.
Our retaining fee for a contested guardianship starts at $3,000.00, and we bill hourly against that at $250.00 to $395.00 per hour, depending on the experience of the attorney. (More details would be explained in a legal services agreement.)
To speak with one of our family law attorneys about whether a guardianship is appropriate in your situation, please call 770-863-8355 to set up a free in-office or phone consultation.