Has a court appointed someone as the legal guardian of your child? Alternatively, have you become the guardian of someone else’s child? The differences between full parental rights and legal guardianship are subtle yet critical.
While an adoption will permanently terminate the parental rights of the child’s birth parents, guardianship keeps these rights intact—even though the legal guardian acquires authority and responsibility over the child and/or their property.
The following is an in-depth discussion about guardianship and how it affects what the parent(s) can and cannot do. For the purposes of this discussion, we will take a look at a hypothetical family: Jesse (the child), Taylor (the birth parent), and Sam (the guardian).
Rights & Responsibilities of Parents
When the court appoints Sam as Jesse’s guardian, Taylor can no longer make decisions for Jesse. Taylor’s parental rights are essentially suspended, rather than terminated, as they would be if Riley were adopted. Visitation rights may be decided by the court or by the guardian, depending on the situation. They may also be revoked if Jesse’s safety is compromised.
A guardianship may not be permanent—it is possible for the court to decide that a guardianship is no longer necessary, and that Jesse may return to Taylor’s care. In this instance, all responsibilities of the guardian would return to Taylor.
Rights & Responsibilities of the Guardian
As Jesse’s new guardian, Sam now has the same responsibilities that a parent would have, with a few additions.
Sam’s general parenting responsibilities include all the following, and more:
- Providing Jesse with a place to live. A child must live with their guardian and may not live with anyone else.
- Providing Jesse with an education. Sam must ensure Jesse is in school and has access to any extra tutoring or other necessary services.
- Assuming responsibility for any damages Jesse causes. These can include car accidents, graffiti, vandalism, or other forms of damage.
As a legal guardian, Sam must fulfill additional requirements, including:
- Notifying the court in writing immediately if they move within the state or requesting permission from the court to move out of the state of California.
- Submitting a status report to the court once a year. The court may request additional reports or investigations, and Sam must comply with the court in all instances.
- Getting permission from the court for Jesse to be placed in a mental institution if the need arises. As guardian, Sam is responsible for providing physical and mental health care for Jesse, but mental institution residency must be approved by the court.
Finally, as the guardian, Sam has the right to make certain decisions for Jesse, including getting a driver’s license or enlisting in the military. However, if Jesse were to enlist, the court would consider Jesse an emancipated adult.
Bring Your Questions & Concerns to Our Team
We know that guardianship and other custody matters can be complicated and extraordinarily stressful. At US Legal Group, APC, we will handle your case with the care and respect you deserve. Ultimately, the child’s wellbeing is most important, and our goal is to give you the legal support and advocacy you need during this challenging time.