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Legal Guardianship Chicago – What you should know

Legal Guardianship Chicago – What you need to know

By: M. Scott Gordon

 What is legal guardianship, and what does it have to do with divorce? In general, a guardianship is a legal relationship between an adult and a minor child (or disabled adult). With children, the guardian doesn’t take the legal place of the child’s parents—a guardianship is very different from an adoption in this way—but rather makes certain decisions for the child and/or acts in the child’s best interest.

Under Illinois law, different kinds of guardianships exist. When we’re talking about the guardianship of a child, the law recognizes four different types of guardians. It’s important to understand how different types of guardianships work in our state, and why guardians sometimes are appointed for children in the middle of a custody battle.

Different Types of Guardianship

Different kinds of guardianships exist in Illinois, and they include the following:

  • Permanent legal guardian: this kind of guardian is responsible for feeding, clothing, and housing a child, as  well as ensuring that the child receives an education;
  • Guardian ad Litem, or “GAL”: this type of guardian is someone who is appointed by a judge in child custody dispute to investigate a child’s current living or custody situation and to make a recommendation concerning the best interests of the child;
  • Standby guardian: in the event that a parent or other legal guardian suddenly passes away or becomes unable to care for the child, the standby guardian steps in. Standby guardians usually are appointed by the parent or legal guardian; and
  • Short-term guardian: this type of guardianship typically occurs when a parent or other legal guardian appoints another person to care for his or her children for one year or less.

Guardians can be appointed in many different kinds of situations. In some cases, a court will appoint a guardian to act in the child’s best interest. In some divorce and custody proceedings, the judge will appoint a GAL, for instance, to investigate the child’s situation. Unlike a GAL, it’s often a parent who appoints a standby guardian or a short-term guardian.

Particularly contentious divorces can sometimes lead a grandparent or other close relative to seek legal guardianship of a child. Such cases can be extremely complicated, and you should always discuss your situation with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer.

Requirements for Guardianship

What do guardians of minor children have in common? Under Illinois law, in order to become a guardian of any type (other than a GAL), you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be at least 18 years old;
  • You must be a U.S. resident;
  • You must be of sound mind;
  • You must not have been found to be disabled by a court; and
  • You must not have any felony conviction that involved harm or the threat of harm to a child.

In addition to becoming the guardian of a child, Illinois can also appoint guardians for disabled adults. While this type of guardianship appears less frequently in divorce cases and family law situations involving custody disputes, it’s important to know that guardians do exist for persons other than minor children.

If you have questions about child custody or guardianship, you should contact an experienced Chicago family law attorney as soon as possible. Issues of guardianship can be quite complicated, and it’s important to have a dedicated advocate on your side. At the law offices of M. Scott Gordon & Associates, we have years of experience handling guardianship matters in the Chicago area.