- Posted January 7, 2019
Recently I was reading a forum discussion about Guardianship, and I was taken aback by comments like “it’s easy, you don’t need an attorney”. Full disclosure I did retain an attorney, but how “simple” it was or wasn’t my only consideration; nor was cost. I wanted to understand exactly what it meant to be a court-appointed Guardian – for me and my son.
My concern is there are those who consider guardianship as an extension of being a parent – it’s something they should almost automatically do. I’m also concerned there are those on the extreme other side – they don’t want to take away any of their children’s rights.
Me, I’m somewhere in the middle. I was against Guardianship because I thought it meant my son wouldn’t have any legal rights; and I’m big on civil liberties. But what I’ve come to understand is my son needs protection, because he is very compliant and doesn’t have a mature (adult) understanding of the world – and unfortunately it’s very likely he never will.
Yes, there is supported decision making (learn more here), and I believe this to be a viable option for many people with I/DD – but consideration should be given to how much an individual understands. It’s no more a 100% solution than Guardianship is.
I found (and I’m including) a great overview of Guardianship of incapacitated or disabled persons on FindLaw (you can find it here). I’ve included my key takeaways below:
“Guardianships are limited as much as is reasonable in order to allow wards to exercise as much control over their lives as possible while maintaining as much dignity and self-reliance as possible. The desires of the wards are given primary consideration. Also, wards are allowed to do as much of their own caregiving as is physically and mentally possible.”
So when you are considering the Guardianship decision (can’t occur before the child turns 18) don’t take it lightly. It does not mean the same thing as being their parent, they are legal adults and have the same rights/responsibilities as you or me. You will not automatically be consulted or informed about their medical condition; but there are less restrictive methods of getting this information than Guardianship.
I encourage anyone who is considering this decision for either their child or parent to consult with an attorney whose practice focuses on this type of law. Have the attorney provide you an overview of the pros and cons, and talk it over (as much as possible) with the individual you’re considering Guardianship of. Just please don’t think it’s another block to be checked as your child becomes an adult – this is, and should be treated as, a major milestone and decision.