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What is a legal guardian?

If you are like most parents, it is difficult to imagine someone else raising your children. You want to be there for every milestone through childhood and into adulthood. Unfortunately, there are circumstances where you may need to consider appointing a legal guardian.

If anything happens to you or if your children have special needs that you cannot take care of, the  Children’s Bureau suggests that you should have a guardian established in advance.

What is a legal guardian?

A legal guardian is a caregiver who has legal rights when it comes to your children. Legal guardians have the authority to:

  • Discipline
  • Make decisions involving medical care
  • Choose how to protect the child
  • Make decisions about education

Despite the legal guardian having rights, you still have parental rights. You still play a role in your children’s lives if you can. For instance, if you have an illness or become incapacitated and cannot function to take care of your children, then the legal guardian could do it in your stead. Legal guardians must have a stable income and the ability to care for the children.

How flexible is legal guardianship?

Legal guardianship does not have to be permanent. If your children need a stable and permanent home, however, it can be permanent. The children would live with the permanent caregiver and he or she would have to commit to caring for the children. When you choose standby guardianship, your children remain under your care. For instance, if you have a terminal illness or a condition that will incapacitate you, your children can remain in your care.


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