A child's legal guardian is the person who has the legal responsibility to care for and support that child. Except in rare cases, a child's parents are always their guardians.
If parents cannot care for their child and do not choose someone else to be their guardian, a judge can decide who will take on the legal responsibility of the child.
This is a very serious decision, because a judge's decision can last until the child reaches adulthood. For this reason, judges usually appoint someone who is close to the child and knows them well.
The person who becomes a child's guardian also makes important decisions about what happens to the child (such as where she will go to school or live) and how money will be spent on her behalf.
A guardian must make these decisions in the best interests of the child. If the guardian does something that is not in the child's best interests, a judge can remove her as guardian.
Who can be a child’s guardian?
A child's parents are the first people judges usually look to when deciding who should be a guardian. Judges will usually appoint someone who is close to the child and knows her well.
A judge may appoint someone who is not a relative if he or she decides it would be better for the child. This could happen if there is no one who is close to the child or if it is important for someone else to care for her for some reason - such as if she has serious health problems or has spent time in foster care.
If a child's parents are not living together or have died, a judge will usually appoint one of the following people as guardian:
a parent who is not married to the other parent (a "single parent")
a grandparent or another relative
someone else who is close to the child and knows her well.
When can parents give up their parental rights?
Parents give up their parental rights by signing a document called an "Affidavit of Surrender." This is not the same thing as a "Surrender for Adoption," which discussed in the next section.
Parents can only give up their parental rights voluntarily, not against their will. They cannot forced to do this by anyone, including the child's other parent. If a parent signs an Affidavit of Surrender, he or she no longer has a right to make decisions about the child or to see her.
The Affidavit must be sign in the presence of a judge or court official. Also, it must be signed by both parents (unless there is another parent who can care for the child). The judge must approve it before it becomes effective.
If you are close to someone who has signed an Affidavit of Surrender. You should know that he or she may change his mind later and want to try to get back into his or her child's life.
If that happens, he or she can seek help from a lawyer and ask a court to reverse the decision.
What is “surrender for adoption”?
The law says that parents who give up their children for adoption must give them up completely. This means they can never try to get back into their children's lives or contact them in any way.
There are some situations in which parents must give up their children for adoption, such as if the child was born outside of marriage (unless the father has acknowledged paternity).
The court can also order parents to give up their child for adoption if he or she is very young (under 1 year old) and a judge decides that adoption is in the child's best interests.
Parents are not allowed to change their minds about giving up their child for adoption once the adoption process begins. If they do, a judge will usually decide that they are unfit parents and may decide that they have lost all of their rights to see their child.
What is “guardianship of an infant”?
After a baby is born, a court can appoint someone to be the "guardian of an infant." This can happen when there is no one else who can care for the baby.
A guardian of an infant has all of the same legal rights and responsibilities as a parent, but only until the child reaches the age of 18 years old.
In some cases, such as when a parent disappeared or died, a guardian of an infant may be appointed until the child reaches 25 years old. The guardian of an infant may also be responsible for paying for the child's care and support.
In order to get the money from government programs such as social welfare. The guardian can apply for these benefits after the child is born.
If a court appoints someone to be a guardian of an infant, the person must get legal advice from a lawyer before taking on this responsibility. A guardian who does not get legal advice and does not pay for the baby's care can be removed from his or her position.
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