Reinstatement of Guardianship
When you’ve lost guardianship of your child, you are probably counting the days until you reclaim that legal status and everything that comes with it. In Connecticut, parents have the option to file for reinstatement of guardianship in most cases. But it’s not a process you want to approach without some knowledge and preparation. Here’s what you need to know so that you have an opportunity to achieve the best results.
What is Guardianship?
Guardianship is a transfer of your parental rights as far as where your child lives, goes to school, gets medical care, etc. It can be a temporary or permanent transfer of those rights, but it doesn’t sever the tie you have with your child as far as you are their parent. You are still their parent and, in most cases, will have the right to visitation with your child.
This is different from adoption, where your parental rights are terminated by the court and given to someone else. You have no say in the child’s future and no right to see the child. But, with temporary guardianship, you can petition the court to restore your rights as a guardian to your children.
When Guardianship Becomes Necessary
In the eyes of DCF, guardianship becomes necessary when reunification isn’t possible. In other words, a child and their parent(s) are unable to safely live together for any number of reasons. For example, a parent might have a substance abuse problem that isn’t being addressed or is not seeking the required counseling to address neglect issues. When this happens, DCF and the court will take steps to have another party act as the child’s guardian.
Different Types of Guardianship
When guardianship is given to another person, that party gets to decide where the child lives and goes to school, among other things. There are three different types of guardianships possible when dealing with DCF in Connecticut:
- Straight Transfer of Guardianship – The person getting the guardianship receives legal rights, and there is no further follow-up by the court or DCF once this happens.
- Subsidized Guardianship – The person acting as the guardian is a licensed foster care provider and receives a subsidy from the state to help care for the child.
- Permanent Guardianship – The person given the guardianship gets the status on a permanent basis. This happens only when there are grounds to terminate parental rights.
What Type of Guardianship Can Be Reinstated?
The type of guardianship on your case impacts whether you can come back and try to get reinstated with your child at a later date. Simply put, you can ask to be reinstated as long as the guardianship isn’t permanent. A permanent guardianship cannot be reversed by the court, but the parent can ask for reinstatement with the other types of guardianship.
What is Reinstatement of Guardianship?
A parent has the right to request reinstatement of guardianship as long as the guardianship is temporary. A reinstatement of guardianship means that you will once again be your child’s legal guardian and be able to decide where they live, go to school, get medical care, go to church, and do other daily activities.
If there is a temporary guardian assigned to your child, you may or may not have had some input in certain aspects of daily living. But reinstatement means that you are back in control of the decision-making and the law trusts you make the right choices for your children.
Having an informal family agreement about guardianship isn’t the best arrangement in the eyes of the law. Reinstatement is something that has to be done by the court, and it’s a process that the parent should approach with the proper preparation.
When Should You File for Reinstatement of Guardianship?
Every parent wants to be reunited with their children. But when is the best time to file for reinstatement of guardianship?
The simplest answer is that you should begin working on this solution when you and your children feel that the time is right. Even if your child’s guardian doesn’t agree with the timing, the important thing is that DCF and the court agrees.
Assuming guardianship was given to another party because of some serious issue, the court will want to investigate whether or not that issue has been resolved. For example, if you had a substance use disorder that was creating unmanageability in your life, it would be beneficial to show that you have achieved a substantial period of sobriety. Most courts like to see a period of sobriety lasting from nine months to over a year.
Or, if you were homeless, you could demonstrate that you have secured a place to live along with a steady job. When you can show that you have established a support system and created resources to support your children, it may be a good time to file for reinstatement of guardianship.
The length of time between the start of the guardianship and when you file for reinstatement matters as well. If you file for reinstatement just a few months after the guardianship started, the court may feel that you didn’t have sufficient time to address your issues. But, if you wait too long (more than two years), the court might wonder why you took so long to try to reclaim your children. In short, it’s a good idea to make sure the rest of your case is in order before requesting reinstatement, so you have the best chance at a positive outcome.
Where to File for Reinstatement of Guardianship
When you’re ready to file for reinstatement of guardianship in Connecticut, you have to go back to the original court that granted the guardianship to another party. In this state, there are three different courts that deal with these types of family matters – juvenile court, probate court, and family court.
If you can remember the general area of the court that you appeared in before, you can probably figure out which court handled your case. You can also go down to the courthouse with an ID and request a copy of your records to get the docket number to use in your reinstatement petition.
What to File for Reinstatement of Guardianship
When you decide it’s time to file for reinstatement and you’ve located the correct court, you’ll want to file a Motion for Reinstatement. Some courts have forms you can fill out, but your attorney will have a more complete document on hand. What needs to be included is your name, the guardian’s name, the date the guardianship started, and why you wish to be reinstated as the child’s guardian. The court will also require that you serve the Motion for Reinstatement with all parties of record, such as the current guardian and the other parent.
The Guardianship Reinstatement Process
When you file a Motion for Reinstatement, there will generally be several court appearances. The first is a preliminary hearing where the court will order that DCF does an investigation.
This investigation involves a DCF caseworker reviewing the case file and interviewing the parties of record (the children, current guardian, the other parent, etc.). The caseworker will also interview you in the home to form an opinion for the court about reinstatement.
There will be another court date to review the matter. If everyone agrees about reinstatement, it will probably be approved. If there are disagreements, the petition could be denied, or the matter might go to trial, and the judge will decide after hearing evidence from the different parties.
What You Need for Court in a Guardianship Reinstatement Matter
When you go to court for your guardianship reinstatement case, the best thing you can do is come prepared. Specifically, we are referring to bringing documentation with you that shows you have thoroughly addressed all the issues that led to the guardianship of your children.
If you have a substance use disorder, bring records of your treatment facilities, including dates of admission and discharge. Have copies of recent drug tests and any other certificates you’ve earned.
If unemployment and housing were underlying issues, bring copies of your pay stubs and a current lease or mortgage. If applicable, show documentation that you are receiving social assistance or counseling services.
Because you have filed the Motion for Reinstatement, it’s important to understand that you have the burden of proof. It will be your responsibility to gather these records and show the court that you have made changes sufficient to bring your children back into your home.
Finally, if you are going to trial, you will also be responsible for presenting any witnesses that can testify on your behalf. So, it’s essential to understand the nature of each court hearing in your case.
Speak with an Experienced Connecticut DCF Lawyer
If the Connecticut courts and DCF have become involved in your life, you must understand that there is a lot at stake. Even if temporary guardianship has been granted to another party, you can get that back by carefully following the state’s reinstatement process. Any custody matter can be intimidating, which is why you need an experienced DCF lawyer on your side who can represent your interests from start to finish.
As a former DCF social worker, Attorney Nicole Christie understands the DCF process and has an intimate knowledge of this state’s regulations surrounding guardianship. Our law firm will work diligently to safeguard your and your child’s interests throughout the legal process. For an initial consultation, please call The Christie Law Firm at (860) 461-7494 or contact our office online.