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How To Obtain Guardianship For Your Special Needs Child

Guardianship Attorney GeorgiaIn many states, including Georgia, as soon as your special needs child turns 18, he or she becomes a legal adult and is assumed to be able to make decisions on their own behalf unless a court determines otherwise.

However, if you determine that retaining guardianship over your child once he or she turns 18 is in your child’s best interest, here’s how you do it. (See related post: Is Guardianship The Right Choice When Your Special Needs Child Turns 18?)

Start Planning BEFORE Your Child Turns 18

Requesting guardianship can be a lengthy and involved legal process. In order to retain guardianship of your child, you need to have the court appoint you as your child’s guardian.

To make sure there is not a gap in your child’s guardianship when he or she turns 18, it’s important to prepare your petition to the court well in advance of your child’s 18th birthday. If there is a gap in guardianship (i.e. your child turns 18 before you have guardianship) and a decision needs to be made about your child’s health or legal rights, it could cause some serious problems.

Step-By-Step Process

  • Every state’s guardianship laws differ slightly and the process can be daunting. This is where hiring an attorney to help guide you through the process is beneficial.
  • There are several forms you will need to complete, including forms that will need to be completed by a qualified physician to evaluate your child.
  • Once you submit the forms, your child will need to appear in court with you. As much as possible, you will want to help your child understand the process and what to expect in advance of actually appearing in court.
  • The court will appoint a representative for your child to help determine the merits of your claim that your child is not competent to act on his or her own behalf and that guardianship is in fact the right choice. The representative will most likely want to meet and visit with your child. In addition, in some circumstances, the representative may visit your child at home.
  • Finally, you will need to attend a hearing with your child. At this point, the judge will review and determine if your child is incapacitated and, if so, to what extent he or she requires assistance. Further, the judge will then decide if the person petitioning for guardianship will be appointed as guardian.

Some Things To Consider 

  • You and your spouse or significant other can petition the court to share guardianship. You will become co-guardians.
  • If your child’s need are complex, you can request that a non-profit agency or public or private corporation serve as your child’s guardian.
  • Guardianship may not be the right solution for your child. There are alternatives such as conservator or limited guardianship that give your child more independence.

Once You Are Awarded Guardianship

The paperwork doesn’t stop once you’re awarded guardianship. Every year you will need to file detailed reports about your child’s finances and overall well being. In some states, guardians must also provide proof that they’ve made adequate residential arrangements as well as provided appropriate healthcare services.

If the guardian cannot prove that they have adequately provided for their adult ward, then the court can remove the adult ward and name a different guardian.

Getting Started

As a parent of a special needs child and an attorney with extensive experience with legal issues relating to special needs children, I can help you navigate the complex guardianship process. DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

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