When an adult is unable to care for themselves or a child’s parents are unable to care for the child, guardianship may be necessary to provide that guidance. But there are several different types of guardianship that might be used. Here is what you need know, and some particular information about guardianships as they apply to DCF cases.
What Is Legal Guardianship?
Guardianship refers to another party being granted the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of a certain person, such as a child or parent. The “guardian” is the person the court appoints to make decisions on behalf of someone else. The “protected person” is the person over whom the guardianship has been granted by the courts.
The Purpose of Guardianship
Adults have the legal right to make their own decisions, and parents normally have the legal right to make decisions for their children. When this isn’t possible for various reasons, another party may need to step in to make these choices.
A guardianship may be needed over an adult if that person becomes incapacitated, meaning they are no longer able to care for themselves due to disease, mental illness, or mental incapacity. A guardianship may be needed over a child if the responsible parent isn’t available to make choices due to death, incapacity, or some other issue.
The Different Types of Guardianships
If you believe a person needs someone else to oversee their care, you and your attorney will need to decide which type of guardianship is appropriate. In Connecticut, there are several different types of guardianships possible:
Parents as Guardians
There is a legal presumption that both parents are to act as guardians of a minor child unless the courts state otherwise.
A temporary guardian can be appointed by the court for no longer than a period of one year if a parent is unable to care for a child for any reason.
If the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child, it can appoint a permanent guardian, which cannot be revoked,
A parent or guardian can designate a standby guardian of a minor to act in the event that the parent or primary guardian is unable to perform due to any specified contingencies.
If a minor doesn’t have a parent or guardian, an interested party, such as a relative, can ask the court to appoint co-guardians.
Guardian of the Estate
A guardian of the estate of a minor will control the property and assets of a minor. This is different than guardianship of a person.
How Guardianships Are Used in Connecticut DCF Cases
If you are the subject of an investigation by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), there’s a chance that guardianship might become part of the equation. Once DCF receives notice of reported abuse or neglect, they are obligated to begin an investigation quickly.
A DCF agent will likely come to your home, request to interview your child, and even contact other interested parties such as teachers or your child’s other parent. If DCF feels that your child is in immediate danger, they can remove them from the home temporarily. DCF also has the right to petition the court for guardianship, meaning you will no longer be able to make decisions for your child.
In Connecticut DCF cases, there are three types of guardianships:
- Straight transfer of guardianship— Guardianship is transferred to a designated party without any additional follow-up by DCF or the courts after the ruling.
- Subsidized guardianship— The named guardian is a licensed foster care provider who receives a state subsidy to help with the child’s care.
- Permanent guardianship— The guardian is awarded this status permanently, which generally coincides with the termination of parental rights.
As you can see, no guardianship is ideal. But you want to avoid permanent guardianship for your child. As soon as you know that DCF will be involved in your life, it’s in your best interests to speak with a knowledgeable attorney.
Speak With an Experienced Connecticut DCF and Guardianship Attorney
If you live in Connecticut and the court has ordered guardianship for your child because of a DCF investigation, it’s important that you speak with a qualified DCF lawyer as soon as possible. While this type of guardianship is meant to be temporary, DCF has the right to ask the court to terminate your parental rights if they feel there is justification.
Even though a guardian has been assigned and your child isn’t living in your home, you still retain parental rights. At this point, you should be working diligently towards reunification, which is something The Christie Law Firm can help facilitate. We specialize in handling these types of DCF cases and encourage you to reach out to us to find out how we can help. Call (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation.