Guardianship Lawyer in Columbia, MO

The Guardianship Legal Process

Through my own experience of going through a divorce, and my 15-plus years of experience in family law, I am able to give each of my clients the guidance they need to navigate their own guardianship case.

When we work together, you are not only directly communicating with an experienced and successful guardianship lawyer, but you are also working with a woman who has been in your shoes before. I know the ins and outs of the confusing paperwork and the complex filings.

My local experience in and around Columbia, MO, has established me as the best choice for clients seeking legal guardianship.

Legal guardianship protects individuals who are unable to care for their own well-being due to infancy, incapacity, or disability. Legal guardians have the authority to make decisions on behalf of their ward (the individual in need of legal protection), and they represent the ward’s personal and financial interests.

The process of gaining or transferring guardianship can be long and complicated and could potentially involve a court hearing. Let me help you navigate your guardianship case.

Guardianship of a Minor

Courts may appoint an adult guardian, who is not a biological parent, to care for a minor. Courts assign guardianship over a minor in a number of situations: abandonment of a minor, death of both parents, or parent(s) is incapable of providing proper care.

A legal guardian can be a friend, family member, or another person that the court feels will act in the minor’s best interest. They may be granted physical custody of the minor, allowing the minor to live with the guardian, or they may act as a financial guardian who exercises control over the minor’s property.

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Types of Minor Guardianship

Legal guardianship is when an adult has legal custody of a minor and has the responsibility to provide for the minor’s physical and personal needs. While the minor’s parents are legally required to continue financial support of the minor, the legal guardian must ensure that the minor receives food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care. The legal guardian has the right to consent for the minor and make all decisions regarding the minor’s health and education. A legal guardian will maintain custody of the minor until they reach 18 years old, or until a judge determines that the minor no longer needs a guardian.

Guardianship of the estate occurs when a minor has a substantial amount of money or property. The court may appoint a financial guardian, or guardian of the estate, to manage and protect the minor’s assets on their behalf. A guardian of the estate makes all financial decisions for the minor until they reach the legal age or until the minor’s assets are depleted.

Guardian ad litem is a court-appointed attorney that will represent a minor’s interests in a legal proceeding. Guardians ad litem are typically appointed in divorce cases, probate matters, or in situations where the minor has been abused or neglected.  

Please note that I hold a certified legal specialty as Guardian Ad Litem in Missouri.

How to Establish a Guardianship of a Minor

A court will establish a guardianship only if it is in the best interests of the minor. Courts will take several things into consideration when deciding on guardianship – the stability within the minor’s upbringing, what the child prefers, the ability for the guardian to provide proper care (nutrition, health care, etc.), the existing relationship with the proposed guardian and the minor’s parents, and any information regarding the moral character of the proposed guardian.

Parents who foresee obstacles in appointing a certain person as a guardian might consider writing a letter of explanation to the court in support of their choice.

A hearing is usually required to review reports by a court investigator that are based on interviews with the minor, the parents, and the prospective guardian, who must be an adult over the age of 21. You may want to name an alternate guardian in case your first choice is not approved. If the parents disagree on who should serve as a guardian, the judge will choose between their suggestions based on the minor’s best interests.

More than one adult can serve as the guardian of a minor simultaneously. Before choosing two people, it is important to consider the possibility of disagreements between the guardians affecting the minor’s future. In some cases, however, it may make sense if one adult can provide emotional support while another is better at managing finances. Different minors in the same family can have different guardians, which may be a good option if they have formed attachments to certain adults already.

Guardianship for the Elderly/Incapacitated

Guardianship for an individual who is not a minor works very similarly to establishing guardianship for someone who is not able to make decisions for themselves based on their own care, their property, their money, or other people and assets in their care.

Benner Family Law provides guardianship services.