Minor Guardianships


Minor Guardianships Attorney in Belleville, Illinois

When a child does not have a parent or other party who has custody, the family court can appoint someone as the child’s guardian. An attorney can guide you through the legal process of getting appointed as a child’s guardian and help you understand your rights and obligations. Contact Johnson, Johnson & Nolan, Attorneys at Law, today for an initial legal consultation with our compassionate legal staff.

Why Turn to Johnson, Johnson & Nolan, Attorneys at Law, for Help with Minor Guardianships?

When a child in your family has no parents or parents who aren’t doing their job, you might want to become the child’s guardian. Setting up minor guardianships can be a complex, time-consuming legal process. For years, families throughout St. Clair County and across Illinois have turned to the compassionate law firm of Johnson, Johnson & Nolan, Attorneys at Law, for experienced legal advice and guidance because:

  • We have built an established reputation for assisting clients with obtaining favorable outcomes so they and their families can move forward with peace of mind. Our attorneys have received the highest AV rating from peer-review service Martindale-Hubbell for their work for clients.
  • We’ve earned the trust of the individuals and families who have come to our firm for legal representation. Many clients refer friends, neighbors, co-workers, and succeeding generations of family to us for help with legal issues over the years.
  • Our attorneys dedicate themselves to providing personal service for our clients. We foster a caring environment and provide responsive communication to help our clients feel supported throughout the minor guardianship process.

Understanding Guardianship of Minors in Southern Illinois

A minor child may require a guardian when they have no parent capable or willing to fulfill parental duties. That could be because of the death of the child’s parents or because the parents demonstrated that they weren’t fit to care for and provide for the child. Guardianship ensures that a responsible adult looks out for a child’s well-being and legal and financial interests.

Minor guardianship can come in two types: guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate. A guardian of the person has the responsibility of providing a child’s care, comfort, health, and education. Guardians have the authority to decide on a child’s living arrangements, medical treatment, and education.

A guardian of the estate is responsible for managing a child’s financial interests. A court may appoint a guardian of the estate for a child when the child receives significant assets, such as an inheritance or personal injury award, and the child’s parents cannot appropriately manage their child’s assets. In many cases, courts will appoint a plenary guardian for a child, which combines the duties of a guardian of the person and guardian of the estate. A plenary guardian effectively assumes parental duties for a child.

Pros and Cons of Minor Guardianships

Minor guardianship can provide peace of mind for families whose minor relative has no parent to care for them. Having a guardian for the minor means that a responsible adult has the authority to care for the child’s well-being.

However, minor guardianships can have several downsides compared to alternatives like adoption. First, although a guardian may assume parental duties for a child and eventually develop a parent-like emotional bond with their ward, the child cannot inherit from their guardian like a biological or legal child would. Instead, the guardian would have to leave a specific bequest for their ward.

Minor guardianship does not create a permanent bond like adoption. A court can remove a guardian from their position if they find that the guardian cannot adequately fulfill their obligations. Conversely, a court seeking to terminate a child and adoptive parent relationship must go through an involuntary termination of parental rights.

Finally, guardians responsible for managing a child’s assets typically must file regular accounts with the court, which must review and approve the guardian’s management of the child’s estate.

The Process of Setting up Minor Guardianships

To become a minor’s guardian, an interested party must file a petition for guardianship of a minor with the court. The clerk will schedule at least two hearings on the petition. At the first hearing, the court may appoint a temporary guardian while they review the proposed guardian’s suitability. The petitioning party must serve notice of the petition and hearing on the child’s parents, nearest relative(s), or another party with legal custody or guardianship of the child.

At a final hearing, the court will review the petitioner’s documents and ask questions. The court’s questions are meant to determine whether the child needs a guardian and whether the petitioner is suitable. When the court finds that a child needs a guardian and that the petitioner is an appropriate candidate, it will issue letters of office that serve as proof that the guardian can act on behalf of the child.

Frequently Asked Questions About Minor Guardianships

Common questions that clients have about minor guardianships in St. Clair County include:

Who can serve as a guardian for a minor?

In Illinois, a person must meet specific requirements to serve as a guardian for a minor:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a resident of the U.S.
  • Be of sound mind and not under legal disability
  • Have no prior felony convictions

Courts will also evaluate a person petitioning to serve as a guardian for a minor, including their physical and mental health, financial resources, and ability to provide an active and suitable guardianship program for the child.

How does guardianship differ from adoption?

A guardian is awarded different legal rights than an adoptive parent. In minor guardianship, a guardian receives authority from the court to manage a child’s personal, legal, financial, or medical affairs. While a guardian may stand in the shoes of a parent, a guardian does not become the child’s parent. Conversely, adoption results in an adult becoming a child’s legal parent, with all the rights and obligations of a parent-child relationship. An adoptive parent has a legal obligation to provide for a child’s educational, medical, physical, and moral needs. An adoptive child has the same rights to inherit from an adoptive parent as the parent’s biological children.

Minor guardianships are usually temporary. They may last until a child’s parent(s) can resume parenting duties or until the child gets adopted. However, guardianships can last until a child reaches adulthood or becomes emancipated.

Who can file contested guardianship cases?

Any interested party can challenge the establishment of guardianship over a minor or seek to replace a guardian for poor performance. Interested parties may include the child’s biological or legal parents or other family members. The court can also remove a guardian for misconduct or if the court determines the child no longer requires guardianship.

What happens when a minor’s guardian cannot or does not want to serve?

A minor’s guardian can voluntarily resign their position by filing a statement of resignation with the court that appointed them. However, the court may require the resigning guardian to explain the arrangements for the child’s care after the guardian’s discharge. The arrangements might be that the child returns to their parent(s)’s care or that a successor is willing to assume guardianship. Suppose the court cannot identify a suitable parent or successor guardian. In that case, it may place the child in foster care under the supervision of the Department of Children and Family Services.

Contact Our Family Law Team Today for a Free Initial Consultation

If you’ve considered becoming a guardian for a minor, get the legal services you need to understand the guardianship process and your potential obligations. Contact Johnson, Johnson & Nolan, Attorneys at Law, today at (618) 277-3600 for an initial consultation with our family law attorneys to learn how we can help you with minor guardianship.