Often in domestic cases, the custody of children is a central issue in the litigation. However, there are some instances where neither parent is ready, willing, or able to care for a minor child. In this case, a guardian may be appropriate to provide proper care for the child.
A guardianship must be petitioned for in the Court or agreed to by a parent and guardian. For example, if a parent is being arrested, and will be serving time in jail, the first person to contact to care for the children will likely be the other parent. However, if the other parent is unavailable or unable to properly care for the children, a guardian may be the next step. In the above example, a parent about to go to jail for a period of time may sign a temporary guardianship agreement, granting guardianship over the children to a proper guardian while the parent is unavailable.
If not agreed to by the parent(s), a party may file a petition to be appointed as a guardian over a minor1. The Petition should contain the name, age, and residence of the minor, the approximate value and description of the minor’s property, the names and addresses of the persons most closely related by blood or marriage to the minor, along with other requirements.
To determine who may best serve as guardian for a minor, courts look to the person who is most suitable and willing to serve. Further, courts regard the request of a minor (who is at least fourteen (14) years old) in determining appointment. If guardianships are being granted over two or more minors, only one (1) petition must be filed.
If approved an appointed, a guardian can act on behalf of the minor, and oversee property of the minor, as well. Guardianships generally terminate when the child reaches the age of eighteen (18)2. A guardianship can be terminated before the child turns eighteen (18) if the child is adopted or gets married. A guardianship can be extended beyond age eighteen (18) if the minor is incapacitated or receives certain DCS assistance.
Whether temporary or long term, guardianships can provide protection for minors until they reach the age of eighteen (18), with limited exceptions. Understanding the process of initiating and terminating a guardianship may be of assistance in domestic cases, where one or both parents may be unavailable or unwilling to care for their child(ren).
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in understanding the basic of guardianships for minors. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.