How to gain legal rights to a child that isn't yours biologically.....Part 1
We often get inquires about how a person gains legal rights to a child that isn't theirs biologically. The answers aren't simple, nor are they straightforward. In this blog we will do our best to provide you with a simple overview of a complex area of the law.
In Arizona there are only really two ways to gain legal rights over a child that is not yours legally; Adoption and Guardianship. Each option has a very specific set of requirements and procedural steps that must be followed or the Court will not grant the requests. While many issues can be handled without an attorney, these are complex matters that are best handled with the assistance of someone experienced and knowledgeable about the processes. Here at RPM Law we pride ourselves on our ability to accurately and honestly assess each case and their likely outcomes. NO ATTORNEY CAN GUARANTEE AN OUTCOME, and if you meet with someone who says they can, you should be very weary and see that as a red flag.
To be clear there are some additional methods within the Juvenile and Family Law arenas for achieving legal rights to a non-biological child, such as In Loco Parentis and/or Grandparents Rights, but those are very specific situations that will be covered in a future blog...
For now we will tackle the issue of guardianship....
Guardianship is when a third party is allowed by the Court to be responsible for a child, i.e. obtain medical care, make education decisions, provide a home, food, care, and support for the child. There are two types of Guardianship under Arizona law. The first, Under title 14, which governs probate, wills, trusts, etc. and the second under title 8, which covers Juvenile law and Department of Child Safety cases. Functionally these two types are very similar. The differences are more about how the Guardianship gets put into place and how it ends, if it ends.
Title 8 Guardianship
Guardianships can be a great alternative to a dependency (DCS case) or termination of parental rights. The parents' rights remain intact, but basically are handed over to a third party until the parent can step back in. All the while the child is in a safe and stable home with someone willing and able to care for him/her. These guardianships are handled under title 8 because they arise out of a Juvenile Court case (dependency/DCS case) and are not necessarily voluntary, which means they don't require the parents' consent.
Ending a title 8 guardianship is not up to the parents, rather it is up to the Court that granted it. The involuntary nature of the Title 8 Guardianship means that a parent would have to go before a Juvenile Court Judge and prove that he/she is capable of being a fit and proper parent and that he/she had remedied the issues that caused DCS involvement.
Title 14 Guardianship
The more common type of Guardianship is a Title 14 guardianship, these are voluntary and most often are accomplished with parental consent. A common situation for these is when military parent(s) are deployed and need a 3rd party to exercise parental rights of a child while they are deployed. These guardianships are generally temporary in nature and serve to ensure a child has proper legal supervision during a parents absence or inability to provide appropriately for the child.
The voluntary nature of a title 14 guardianship means that it can be revoked at any time by the parent. The Title 14 Guardianship is perfect for military families where the only parent, or both parents are being deployed and grandparents or aunts/uncles need to step in to take care of the kids until the parent(s) return. This could also be useful in situations where the parents are deported or imprisoned.
Setting either of these types of guardianship in motion is difficult, and the efforts involved are very complex. Walking someone through the procedures and requirements in depth is too boring to discuss here, which is why consulting an attorney who knows how to handle these cases is vital.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series where we discuss the issue of adoption...
If you or someone you know is facing a situation where guardianship is an appropriate option, contact us ASAP for a FREE CONSULTATION (520)740-1802 or via firstname.lastname@example.org .
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