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The basics of guardianship for minors

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2021 | Child Custody & Parenting Time |

There are some circumstances in Washington where a court will decide to appoint a legal guardian for a minor child. The guardian could be a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or another person that is capable of caring for a child when the parents can’t.

When is a guardian appointed?

The court must consider the best interests of the child when appointing a guardian. If both parents of the child have lost their parental rights, become unable to care for their child, or agreed to guardianship, a guardian may be appointed.

A guardian will have full custody of the child in most cases. Depending on the circumstances involved in the case, one or both parents may have visitation rights as well as certain decision-making rights concerning their child’s care. There are some cases where a child’s parents are ordered to make child support payments to their child’s guardian.

Can guardianship be ended?

Unless there is a petition to end it early, guardianship usually lasts until a child reaches adulthood. The court may alter parents’ and third-party custody orders if circumstances change. For example, if parents want more visitation time or to get custody of their child returned to them, they can petition the court to alter or end the guardianship.

Who can be appointed as a guardian?

Before appointing a guardian, the court looks into the prospective guardian’s background to determine whether they have convictions for crimes involving violence, neglect, or dishonesty. A guardian must be at least 21 years old and someone who the court considers “suitable” to care for the child. If it is in a child’s best interests, a relative may be appointed as a guardian even if they have convictions on their record.