Legal cases involving child guardianship and custody are specialized court hearings designed to ensure children are always legally under the care of an adult. Since they are many times part of emotional situations, these concerns require the guidance of only the most skilled child custody attorneys to reach the most favorable results for both the child involved and their newly appointed guardian or the awarded custodial parent.
Understanding the Difference Between Guardianship and Custody
In the United States, all children under the age of 18 are required to be under the legal care of an adult, whether that be a parent, another family member or someone else who is qualified in that role.
Divorcing couples with children must go through a custody hearing, at which point a determination will be made as to which parent is to remain the main responsible party. Both parents are still considered legal guardians, however. When situations arise where neither parent is deemed a sufficient overseer, nor if the parents are not alive, courts will assign a legal caretaker who is not a parent.
In the simplest sense, parents get custody while someone other than a parent gets legal guardianship. For more details on the assignment and appropriateness of these relationships, contacting child custody attorneys is suggested.
What is Legal Guardianship?
A legal guardian is someone who has been assigned by a court to provide the care and protection of a minor, referred to as the “ward”. There are multiple reasons other than missing parents that would require guardianship; because of this, not all guardianships are permanent. In the case of emergency and temporary wardenships – situations where parents are suddenly or temporarily unable to raise their child – this arrangement can be made and then resolved once the parents are able to resume their role as the prime caretaker.
Adult guardianship is another type of legal wardship that refers to the care and protection of adults incapacitated due to mental or physical incapacities – which can be assigned to the care of another adult. In all cases however, assignment of a caretaker does not dissolve the custodial relationship between parents and children; in an event where parents feel the assignment is not doing what it was intended to, they can request a hearing to dissolve the arrangement, and request that legal role be assigned to themselves once more.
Legal Guardianship and Children Under Parental Custody
As mentioned above, there are certain gray areas where parental custody and guardianship cross, those being situations where parents are deemed unable to, or unfit to perform the caretaker’s role for their children and are caused to give up guardianship. As parents however, there is still custodial right; this provides the ability to help decide on who becomes the guardian for their child, and allows for some say in the child’s upbringing, within the scope of the entire agreement.
Where this can get difficult however, is when a parent has custody, but not legal guardianship, such as in the case of a divorce, or a ruling of unfit parental situations. Sometimes guardianship actually does hold more weight, legally, than custody, which can cause strain between those holding custody and the legally appointed guardian. In many custody cases for example, one parent can have guardianship while another may not, causing stress between the parents, and for the child as well.
Generally though, courts are wary to intervene by changing guardianship rules within a situation that has been working out reasonably well on its own. Defining the responsibilities and limitations of custody and guardianship may be done, but the idea of leaving well enough alone if possible is preferred.
The best environment for any child is as part of a family unit as custody and guardianship are one in the same, but things do not always work out so simply for everyone. Courts do attempt to keep situations as close to that as possible however, even if intervention is required. Those with questions, or facing a custody or guardianship hearing should contact child custody attorneys, like our sponsor, rggarzalaw.com, for expert advice.