Today the definition of “family” is constantly changing and has a different meaning for Millennials than Boomers and is driven by the state of our society. Grandparents are raising their grandchildren. A friend, neighbor, or coach may be raising a child that is not his or her child. Presently, many kids are in DCS’ placement with foster families. Adults, parents, and grandparents are living longer, need assistance as they get older, and may move in with their children and live together for a long time. At some point, many of these situations become a “major problem”; and those who are closest to the situation do not now know when to act or what to do. This blog address three common ways of becoming a court-order guardian by a guardianship that may provide a legal solution and give third parties “custody” or “say” in a child’s or parent’s life.
Perhaps the most commonly known need for kids right now is where parents who are unable to take care of themselves, neglect or abuse their children. In these cases, a Child in Need of Services case may be opened, and the children placed in relative care while the parents are given services by DCS to help them reunify with their children. However, in some cases, this is not possible, and the State must terminate the parents’ rights and make the kids wards of the state. Alternatively, with the approval of DCS, a guardianship may be opened, and the children placed with grandparents or other relatives. This keeps the kids in the family unit somewhat intact and gives the parents the ability to have contact with their parents when the guardian believes it is safe and appropriate. Once the guardianship is in place, the CHINS case is closed. Ultimately, a guardianship may be a great legal tool to consider in CHINS cases if you are a close relative.
While the statistics may not be headline news often, an alarming number of people are raising someone’s kids but without being the official legal guardian of that child. This is common in grandparents raising their grandchildren, or even friends, who have taken on raising their friend’s children during a hard time or when the parent disappears. When the child needs to go to the doctor or be enrolled in school, having legal guardianship is necessary to act on behalf of the child. Also, as time passes, third parties and the child become increasingly bonded and it may cause long-term problems if these kids are just taken back by the parent who left or abandoned them. In the absence of a guardianship or de facto custody, this adult and the child he or she has been raised by having no choices--the child returns to the parent. This is where emergency guardianship or custody proceedings are often filed to stop this process. A better course is to address this living situation with an attorney and explore your options before it becomes an “emergency”.
Finally, as parents get older, their adult-children may often assist in their care, including both physical care and financial guidance. If bills need to be paid timely and doctor’s appointments made, having guardianship of one’s parent can help protect an aging parent who is struggling to care independently for himself/herself. Having guardianship allows the guardian the ability to communicate about the parent’s physical and financial care. In some cases, an aging-parent may not understand his or her limitations and a guardianship may be sought that is against the parent’s wishes. Without this, Adult Protective Services will become involved, and while they protect adults, do not know your parent or the aging person you are assisting. Thus, an adult guardianship will most likely lead to a better quality of life for this adult in need in the long-term.
In cases where a “family” no matter how it is defined needs a legal remedy to ensure care and continuity of an adult or child relationship, Indiana guardianship law provides several remedies. Oftentimes, guardianships may be used in conjunction with other types of cases or may be the answer when no other type of legal remedy seems to fit the situation. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys practice throughout the State of Indiana and handle domestic matters of all types, including those that may involve guardianships. This blog post is written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates and is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.