What happens when a person cannot care for himself or herself anymore? Under Pennsylvania law, the court can appoint a guardian to make decisions for the incapacitated person or minor. Guardians have a legal responsibility to make decisions in the best interest of the child or the incapacitated adult. If you are interested in obtaining legal guardianship of a minor or an incapacitated adult, you will need to petition the court to appoint you and complete the evaluation process.
Consult With a Guardianship Lawyer Today
If you have questions about legal guardianship in Pittsburgh, we recommend consulting with an estate planning lawyer. At Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace, our skilled lawyers have helped many clients in the Pittsburgh area navigate the guardianship process. Whether you are pursuing becoming a guardian or objecting to a guardian, we can help. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.
Guardianship of Minor Children in Pittsburgh
In family law, a legal guardian is someone chosen to act as the primary caretaker of a child under the age of 18. In some cases, the child’s parents personally select the guardian. In other cases, a family court judge appoints the guardian. When parents create a last will and testament, they can appoint a guardian for their minor children. If they pass away, the court will appoint their chosen guardian. It is possible to object to the appointment of a guardian for minor children when the guardian could be unsafe or unable to fulfill his or her duties.
Guardianship of Adults in Pittsburgh
Courts can also appoint legal guardians for adults who cannot care for themselves. In these circumstances, the guardian will assume legal responsibility for an incapacitated or elderly adult. The guardian will be referred to as the “Guardian of the Person.” The term guardian can also describe a person appointed to oversee someone else’s financial matters, known as the “Guardian of the Estate.”
Before the court appoints a guardian, the judge will need to decide that the adult is legally incompetent. The process of declaring someone incompetent begins with a petition submitted in the “Orphans’ Court” division of Pennsylvania court. The “Orphans’ Court” handles estate issues, guardianship issues, adoptions, and other proceedings.
Do You Need a Lawyer in Guardianship Issues?
While you do have the option to represent yourself during a guardianship hearing, we recommend consulting with an experienced lawyer. Pittsburgh-area courts treat legal guardianship matters seriously. Guardianship matters are essential, and they may affect a child’s future as well as the rights of his or her biological parents. For incompetent adults, guardianship will affect their physical and financial care.
Your lawyer will be able to ensure that your rights are protected. Navigating the process of objecting to a guardian or petitioning to become a guardian requires knowledge of Pennsylvania’s guardianship laws. You also need to attend guardianship hearings in court, and your attorney can help you prepare for the hearings. During the hearings, your attorney will be able to present evidence, question witnesses, and help you understand the process.
The Rights of a Legal Guardian
Understanding your rights and obligations as a guardian is important. When you become a legal guardian, you have the right to make decisions on behalf of the adult or child for whom you’ve been appointed guardian. These decisions often include where the child should live, where the child should attend school, what activities the child will be involved in, and other important issues.
Guardians of adults who’ve been declared incompetent will be in charge of ensuring that the individual has all of the care and assistance he or she needs. For example, the guardian will need to arrange all of his or her charge’s medical appointments and ensure the charge has a safe place to live. Guardians will also need to manage their charge’s finances by paying their bills, making investments, and purchasing any items needed.
The Responsibilities of a Legal Guardian
Acting as a legal guardian carries significant legal responsibility. In many cases, a legal guardian will also have physical and legal custody of the individual. As a result, the guardian must fulfill duties just as any biological parent would for his or her child. The guardian must make decisions that ensure the child’s wellbeing, such as:
- Providing food, shelter, and clothing for the child
- Maintaining the child’s physical and emotional health
- Protecting the child from safety hazards
- Ensuring the child completes his or her schoolwork
- Allowing the child to engage in social activities
Is Legal Guardianship Permanent?
Whether or not legal guardianship is permanent depends on the Court’s order. In most cases, legal guardianship of a minor terminates once the child reaches the age of majority, which is typically 18. Guardianship can terminate for other reasons. Suppose the guardian himself or herself becomes incapacitated and can no longer fulfill his or her duties. Or suppose the adult regains his or her mental or physical competence. In these situations, the court may decide that it’s in the individual’s best interest to terminate the guardianship.
Some types of legal guardianship arrangements are intended to be temporary from the beginning. Suppose a single mother is undergoing intensive cancer treatment and would like to appoint a guardian until treatment is complete. In this case, the court could issue a temporary guardianship. Likewise, if one parent is seeking treatment for a mental health condition and isn’t sure when he or she will be able to parent effectively again, the court may award a temporary guardianship.
Contact a Pittsburgh Guardianship Lawyer
The attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace have extensive experience assisting clients with guardianship matters throughout the greater Pittsburgh area. We understand how crucial legal guardianship is for our clients. We will carefully listen to the facts involved in your case and provide you with effective legal advice and representation that you will need during the guardianship hearings in court. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.