General Information About Guardianship of a Child

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What is a guardianship?
A guardianship is when a person (other than the child’s parent or de facto custodian) has legal custody and control over your child. The guardian has the right to make all decisions concerning the child, and is legally responsible for the child. When the child’s parent or de facto custodian has legal custody and control of the child, it is called “custody.” When someone other than the parent has legal custody and control of the child, it is called “guardianship.”

I am thinking about letting my children stay with a family member or friend because I can’t take care of my kids right now. Do I need to give him/her guardianship? What happens if I do that?
Before you decide to give guardianship of your children to a third party (such as a family member or friend) or let your children stay with a family member or friend for an extended period of time, you should be aware of the possible legal results of those decisions. If at all possible, you should consult with an attorney before you let someone else have rights to your children.

A guardianship will give the third person the rights to make all decisions concerning your children, including whether or not to allow your children to see you. If you give someone else guardianship of your children, you will not be able to make any decisions concerning your child.

In Kentucky, if you let your children stay with another adult (family member or friend) and that adult then provides the majority of care and financial support for the child for a year or more (or for only six (6) months if the child is under three (3) years old), a court could determine that that person will then have the same rights to your children as you do. This would mean that they would have as much right to keep the kids until the children are grown up (turn 18) as a natural parent and that the court might not give custody of the children back to you, ever.

Can I end the guardianship whenever I want to?
No, not necessarily. A guardianship usually lasts until the child turns 18, unless the court ends the guardianship before the child's 18th birthday. It can be hard to convince the court to end a guardianship before the child's 18th birthday (unless everyone agrees the guardianship should be ended).

After you have given legal guardianship to another person, if that person doesn’t agree to end the guardianship, you will need to go back to court and prove to the court that the guardianship should be ended.

If I give guardianship of my children to someone else, will I have to pay that person child support?
It is possible. The court could order you to pay child support to the guardian, especially if the guardian is receiving government benefits for the child.

I can’t take care of my children right now, what else could I do instead of giving guardianship to my friend?
There are other alternatives to guardianship. You could simply allow your children to live with your friend. There are forms you can fill out to give a third person Power of Attorney for you so that your children can live with a third person and go to school in that person's school district. Download the Power of Attorney for Medical/School Decision Making form [PDF]

You can appoint your friend to have Power of Attorney for you so that your friend can get medical care for your children. To do so, you must write a document that states that you are authorizing your friend to get medical care for your children. The statement should also include your name, the children's names and dates of birth, and your friend’s name. You must sign the document, and another adult must also sign the document as a witness. If possible, you should have the document notarized. This should allow your friend to get necessary medical care for the child. Download the Power of Attorney for Medical/School Decision Making form [PDF]



Reviewed August 2009