Family law: Understand guardianships

Tucson Family Law Logo

Families throughout Arizona and elsewhere encounter different scenarios in which it is necessary to have someone to care for and make important decisions on behalf of a minor child or incapacitated adult. In these situations, the court will appoint a guardian to facilitate this role. Guardianships are an important part of family law; however, some readers may be unsure of exactly what this role entails.

In simple terms, a guardian is an individual who is responsible for making personal decisions and providing care for an incapacitated adult or for a minor child, each of whom is called the ward. In cases involving children, courts will appoint guardians for minors when those children can no longer live with their parents for whatever reason. The court will always keep the best interests of the child in mind when making these appointments, and the individual seeking guardianship must be a competent adult who can provide information about his or her background, including any criminal history and any previous experience with being a guardian.

Guardians can be appointed through a last will and testament or by the interested party filing a petition with the court. Additionally, any minor who is 14 years old or older may nominate someone as a guardian; however, that person must be a competent adult who meets the criteria for the role as well as someone who will serve the child’s best interests. For minor children, a guardian will have responsibilities similar to the child’s biological parents, with the authority to make decisions regarding education, withholding or providing medical treatment, and making determinations about where the child will live and with whom.

Most of the time, guardianships for minor children are necessary when the child’s parents both pass away or abandon the child as well as in instances where the parents are incarcerated or incapacitated. This is typically a highly sensitive area of family law, which is why it is so important for the proper person to be appointed. Anyone in Arizona who wishes to become the guardian of a minor child or who was appointed to the role through a will can find invaluable support from a family law attorney.

Source: State Bar of Arizona, “State Bar of Arizona: A Guide to Guardianship and Conservatorship”, Accessed on 1/30/2019