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Establishing Guardianship of a Minor Child

When and How to Establish Guardianship of a Minor Child

By: M. Scott Gordon

Establishing minor guardianship in Illinois was historically a straightforward affair. After the death or incapacitation of a child’s parents, courts tended to grant guardianship to family members or loved ones efficiently and without contest.

Guardianship cases today are notably more complex. With more non-traditional family structures and other factors–such as parental drug abuse or child abandonment–creating an environment where birth parents are not necessarily the caregivers of a child, many people need help understanding the rules and regulations surrounding legal guardianship.

At M. Scott Gordon & Associates, we help individuals and caregivers with Family Law throughout Chicago and can assist with establishing guardianship. Read on for tips on how to move forward with this important legal process.

Determining When Guardianship is Necessary

It is not always clear when it is time to establish guardianship of a child. You may be raising a child or managing his or her affairs, but doubtful about your rights to make your responsibilities official in the eyes of the law. If you are considering guardianship, try to answer the following questions:

  • Has the child been living with you for a long period of time?
  • Are you caring for the child and ensuring his or her welfare?
  • Are the birth parents unable to care for the child?
  • Are the parents out of contact, deceased, or otherwise negligent in their parental duties?
  • Have the parents explicitly granted you permission to seek legal guardianship?
  • If not, are they likely to do so?

If the answer to any or all of the above questions is “yes,” it may be time to seek legal guardianship. You may want to consult with an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities as a potential guardian.

Finding out if You Are Eligible

Not everyone can legally become a guardian. To be considered, the court must deem you able to manage the parental responsibilities of a child. In addition, you must be at least 18 years of age, of sound mind, a legal resident of the United States, and have no felonies on record, unless the court determines that past felonies present no threat to the child.

How to Apply

To apply for guardianship of a minor, you will need to submit a number of documents, including the birth certificate of the minor, a valid ID, some proof of the parents’ inability or lack of desire to care for the child. This may include a written consent from the parents, their last known address, or a certificate of death.

Seeking guardianship is something that you should not try to manage on your own. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand your options and recommend a path forward that minimizes the potential for conflict or a long, drawn-out process. This is especially true in cases where parents may contest your ability to become a legal guardian.
To speak to a skilled family law lawyer about your guardianship matter, contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates. From our Chicago and Skokie offices, we help individuals throughout Chicago establish legal guardianship.