In most states, a parent is deemed to be the legal guardian of his or her child until their child turns 18. Up until that point, parents make all the medical, financial, educational, and day-to-day decisions for their children.
However, once your child turns 18, he or she is legally considered an adult and your authority to make decisions on your child’s behalf stops. This usually isn’t an issue, unless you have a special needs child that may not be ready or able to make good decisions about their care.
Following is a discussion of some options of what you can do when your special needs child turns 18.
With guardianship of your child, you have the legal authority to make decisions about your child’s healthcare, housing, food, clothing, and other subjects that affect your child such as decisions about their income, property, public benefits and other financial matters.
Guardianship is not automatic. And when your child turns 18, parents (or an adult willing to oversee your child’s care) must petition the court for guardianship.
However, not every child who has disabilities needs to have a guardian. With appointed guardians, your child loses a great deal of independence. Your child will no longer be able to make decisions about their personal life, health care, financial or legal matters.
Alternatives To Guardianship
Most state laws require that guardianship only be imposed only when less restrictive alternatives would not best benefit and protect the child.
Following are a few examples of less restrictive alternatives to guardianship.
Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney is given to a responsible adult (ex. a parent) that acts on your child’s behalf on financial, healthcare, education, or legal matters, but the child still retains the right to act on his or her own behalf.
Representative or Protective Payee
If your child receives Social Security, benefits from welfare or other state or federal benefits, the Court can appoint someone to help manage their payments from these entities. All other decisions are left up to your child.
Supported Decision-Making is a process where the individual retains all of their legal rights and is guided through a decision-making process by select individuals with the goal of supporting the individual in making good choices.
Factors To Consider When Making This Decision
It’s important to take into consideration several factors when deciding whether your child needs a guardian or some other form of support.
When To Make A Decision
The conversations and decisions about how your soon-to-be 18-year-old child should be cared for need to happen six months before they turn 18. These conversations are not easy. In fact, they’re very difficult and there are many variables to consider. As a result, it’s important to start thinking about your child, his or her needs and long-term well-being now.
Even if your child is older, it's never too late to secure guardianship.
We offer two options to help secure guardianship if this is the right option for their child.
1) Our attorneys handle every detail - all the documents and filings - associated with applying for Guardianship to the Court.
2) We train parents step-by-step on how to apply for Guardianship with the Court on their own.
We can help guide you through the legal process on how to obtain Guardianship with a Guardianship Training, or we can handle everything for you from beginning to end.