Parents of minor children can nominate a conservator or guardian for their child. A guardian will be the person responsible for the child and is approved or set out by the court. This guardian will care for the minor child if the parent is unable to do so or if the parent passes away. Guardians are named in a parent’s will as well.
Once a guardian is appointed, he or she will care for the minor child as if he or she was the child’s parent. This means that the guardian will have decision-making power regarding health care, education, social and other activities, residence, and financial matters. In some situations, the court may limit the guardian’s decision-making authorities.
Establishing Guardianship in Utah
If you have been specifically designated by the parent to be a child’s guardian, the court will generally not undermine this nomination. However, the court will not follow the parent’s wishes if it determines that you are not fit to be a guardian or that it would otherwise not be in the best interests of the child. Nonetheless, these situations are rare; the court will usually adhere to a parent’s wishes.
Establishing guardianship is a formal legal process that has specific steps. You can use the following general outline to help you know what to expect in this process.
- File a petition with the district court.
You must start the guardianship process by filing a petition with your district court. The respondent may be the child’s current legal guardian, including their biological parent. In many situations, the reason that someone is petitioning for guardianship is because the biological parent is currently unable to care for their child, such as when the parent is in a sudden accident. In those circumstances, there may be no one to object to the petition. Nonetheless, you will need court approval to become the legal guardian of the minor child.
- Undergo an investigation.
The court will investigate you to determine whether you are an appropriate guardian for the minor child. This will include an inquiry into your financial and mental stability. They will also consider whether you can provide for their basic needs, such as health care, education, clothing, and shelter. The court will only appoint you as a guardian if it is in the best interests of the child.
- Testify in court.
As part of the court’s guardianship nomination process, you will likely have to appear in front of a judge for a hearing. The hearing will be the court’s opportunity to meet you in person and ask why you think you would be a good guardian for the child.
While the guardianship process may seem simple, it can become very complicated. It is a good idea to utilize the services of an experienced Utah family law attorney throughout this process. Contact Topham Law for more information on how we can help!