Guide to Guardianship – A Comprehensive Look into Custody Arrangements

Dealing with divorce, medical hardship, or sudden loss is hard—especially if you ate taking care of children. Making sure your family has a bright and secure future is a must, but in the event of extenuating circumstances, you might need to look elsewhere for help. Having a guardian appointed is a legal option you can pursue if the going gets tough. Read on to learn more about:  

  • How To Obtain Guardianship and The Types of Guardians in Maryland; 
  • Kinship Care vs. Standby Guardians: Two Alternatives; and 
  • A Child’s Rights During Custody Issues. 

 

Obtaining Guardianship Status: The Legal Process

There are a few types of guardians that have different functions. 

A Guardian of a Person takes care of the minor: providing food, clothing, housing, education, healthcare, or anything to do with familial relations. Like a parent, a guardian of a person acts in the child’s best interests. 

On the other hand, a Guardian of Property covers a minor’s finances—including financial decisions—and managing any benefits, income, or bills for which they might need assistance. Typically, the court details their responsibilities in the guardianship order. 

 

Finally, a person may also be a Guardian of a Person and Property—a mixture of the two. 

The process of obtaining guardianship is relatively simple:

  1. File a petition for guardianship in the name of the minor. This must be in the circuit court where the minor resides. If there are multiple minors, you must submit multiple forms. 
  2. Obtain the consent of each of the minor’s parents. 
  3. Once filed, you will have a court hearing set, where all interested parties will be invited to attend. 

 

As always, we advise you have an attorney present for any proceedings and document filings. Becoming a guardian is no easy task. Go in with the best of intentions and with the child’s future in mind. Though you do not have certain parental rights, you do have the chance to affect them in a significant way. 

On the other side, if you’re a parent, you may want to consider other avenues linked to guardianship. 

Different Variations of Care: Kinship and Standby Guardians

There are guardianship options available for temporary and long-term needs in case your child may require support in the future. Worried about issues of abuse from one spouse and considering adjusting your custody agreement? Are there health issues in your life that spell an uncertain future? It’s good to know the avenues available just in case something comes up in your life. 

Kinship Care comes in two forms but involves placing the child in the custody of a blood relative within five degrees of consanguinity. This may be an alternative to adoption or an option for a child who needs to be placed somewhere outside their parent’s home for some amount of time. 

 

Formal Care is the form of Kinship where a child is in the custody of the State but placed in the home of a family member or caregiver. The other form is Informal Care, which does not require legal custody and places the child in the care of a family member by blood or marriage. 

What is a caregiver? A caregiver is a person over the age of 21 who the local department of social services approves to provide temporary or long-term care to a child needing care or custody outside of adoption. This person could very well be a family member or a well-maintained family friend who can demonstrate strong familiarity with the child’s livelihood. However, the department of social services will prioritize placing children with family members. 

 

There are benefits to being a Kinship caregiver. You may be eligible to receive Food Stamps, Child Care, Social Security, Medical Benefits, or Cash Assistance. 

Standby Guardians are different in that they’re appointed by you, the parent. A standby guardian may be more applicable in cases where a parent has an extenuating medical circumstance or passes away. 

In this case, at least one parent must consent to the guardianship—in this, a standby guardian does not have custody over the child, and you, the parent, do not lose parental rights. 

 

There are certain actions a standby guardian must take in specific scenarios. In every case, the child’s parent must fill out and sign a Designation Form and have it witnessed by two adults who are not the standby guardian. If the reason for the appointment of a standby guardian is medical, then a doctor’s written determination of the medical status is also necessary. As a biological parent, you’re able to terminate a guardianship at your own will through the court. 

Both these forms of childcare are necessary to have in mind in the event of your absence or illness. 

A Child’s Rights During Issues Related to Custody

In child support cases, it’s not uncommon for a court to appoint a lawyer for a child in need. There are three types of attorneys who represent minors in these types of cases: 

A child privilege attorney may talk privately with a child and choose what is in their best interests to reveal in court. Likewise, they may advocate for other aspects of the child’s confidential information. 

 

Best Interest Attorneys review custody arrangements and may decide what is best for the child. Unlike child privilege attorneys, they may share confidential information with the court. If the child prefers a different custody arrangement, their attorney must disclose this; however, they don’t have to request the court comply with their decision. 

Child Advocates are independent lawyers who treat children the same way they would treat an adult client. Unlike a best interest attorney, if a child chooses a custody agreement, that is the custody agreement the child advocate attorney will follow. These types of attorneys are more commonplace with older, more mature children. 

 

In these cases, whether it be custody or matters of guardianship, a court may appoint a lawyer to assist in the child’s decision-making and representation. They do not need to meet a child’s request for an attorney, but the option is built into Maryland law if a judge deems fit. 

You may also always contact our offices for a free initial consultation if you have questions about guardianship, child custody, or a child’s rights during a trial. Our lawyers are compassionate and experienced in family law and are here to make the transition to the next step in your life or your child’s life as pain-free as possible.

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