Protecting Your Family's Future
 

What You Need to Know About Establishing Guardianship for Your Child

When you have a teenage child with a severe lifelong physical or mental disability, you may need to establish legal guardianship in order to protect your child’s rights and make decisions for your child once he or she turns 18 years old.

When a Child With a Disability Needs a Guardianship

According to the 2010 U.S. census, 56.7 million people have a disability. The number of people in the United States with a severe disability has increased, and people with severe disabilities are often unable to hold a job or make decisions for themselves. If you have an adult child with a disability, you may need to establish legal guardianship in order to protect your child’s rights and make certain types of decisions for him or her.

What Legal Guardianship Is

Legal guardianship is the legal right for you to make decisions for a person who the court declares to be not competent to make their own decisions. There are two types of legal guardianship that someone with a disability might need. The first type is guardianship over the person. This gives you the right to decide where the person will live, which doctors he or she will go to and whether or not he or she will attend an adult day care program or other activities for people with disabilities. The second type of legal guardianship is guardianship of the estate. This refers to the management of the funds or assets of a person with a disability.

Who Needs a Legal Guardianship?

The courts determine whether or not a person with a disability needs a guardianship. The decision is based on whether or not the person is able to make competent decisions about their person or their estate. For nearly all children under the age of 18, parents are legal guardians authorized to make medical and financial decisions on behalf of the child. Once a child turns 18 years of age, that guardianship ceases. A person who is incapacitated may not be able to make decisions about their person or estate. As a parent, you can apply for legal guardianship of your child with a moderate or severe physical, mental or cognitive disability.

Legal Paperwork Related to Guardianship Applications

The first step of applying for legal guardianship of your adult child with a disability is the completion of signaturepaperwork. The court clerk can provide you or your attorney with the paperwork. A key aspect of the paperwork must be completed by your child’s physician or medical specialists. The physician’s explanation of your child’s physical, mental or cognitive disabilities will be closely examined by the family court judge. Some of the paperwork should be completed or reviewed by a family law attorney who is familiar with the guardianship process and laws in Texas. You may also need to arrange for a social worker to visit your home or the place where your child lives. An interview may also be a part of your application for guardianship.

Court Appearance for Legal Guardianship Applications

The final part of a guardianship application is the appearance in court. After turning in your paperwork, you’ll receive a court date. The family law judge will review your application before the court date. He or she may have some questions for you during the court hearing. Representation from your attorney can help you answer those questions, or your attorney may answer them on your behalf. You may have a second hearing if the judge requests additional paperwork or documentation of your child’s health status or disability. The court may grant you guardianship alone, or you and your child’s second parent or another responsible adult can be named as co-guardians of the child with disabilities.

Establishing a legal guardianship for your adult child with a disability provides you with a way to protect his or her rights. Without the legal guardianship in place, you may not be able to make decisions or represent your child’s interests. The court could appoint a legal guardian to your child if you do not apply to be one. Contact our associates at Stewart Law PLLC today at (281) 420-8020 to schedule a consultation at our office in Baytown about establishing legal guardianship for your child with a disability.

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