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Family law: what is a guardianship?

For many Georgia families, there comes a time when a parent is unable to care for his or her children. When this happens, other options must be sought. Although adoption is oftentimes a sound plan, it is permanent. This fact leaves some uneasy, which is why they decide to turn to guardianship. However, before creating a guardianship, the parties involved need to fully understand what it entails and how it can affect one's rights to the child in question.

Generally speaking, a guardianship allows an individual, named as a guardian, to make decisions for a child. These decisions can be related to medical care, education and finances. The guardian also becomes responsible for the costs associated with raising the child, which includes clothing, food and educational expenses. Although these responsibilities are parental in nature, they do not sever the child's relationship to his or her parents. Instead, the guardianship co-exists with the parent-child relationship. This is essentially what differentiates a guardianship from adoption.

There are a number of ways a guardianship can be terminated. The most obvious is when a child dies or reaches the age of 18. Yet, there are other ways. For example, a guardianship can be terminated when a judge find that the guardianship is no longer necessary. This, of course, is a grey area that is open to legal argument. The court will consider the child's best interests when making a decision whether to terminate a guardianship, which means that the parties need to be prepared to present evidence as to why their desired outcome furthers those interests.

This is not always easy to do, especially when a guardian may be doing an outstanding job raising a child but the child's parent has regained their ability to appropriately parent that child. In these instances, it might be wise to have the assistance of a skilled legal professional. An attorney knowledgeable in family law may be able to help develop legal arguments that leave the party well-positioned to reach a desired outcome.

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