A guardianship occurs when the court appoints a guardian to make personal decisions for a minor child. The guardian is the person who makes the decisions and the child is known as the “ward”. Generally, the guardian of a minor is appointed in two ways. A guardian for a minor can be appointed by a will of a deceased parent or guardian, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute § 14-5202; or a guardian can be appointed by the court, on petition, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statue § 14-5207.
A guardian can be an individual, or it can be an entity such as a private fiduciary. Although, public fiduciary’s typically do not act as guardians to minors. The guardian of a minor is generally determined by a person whose appointment will be in the best interest of the minor.
Apart from a guardian being appointed by a will, any interested individual can apply to be a guardian for a minor by filing a petition with the court. The petition must give notice to other interested parties then the court will set a date for a hearing on the petition. Generally, notice must be given to any minor who is over fourteen years of age, any person who has had principal care and custody of the minor for the sixty days prior to filing the petition, and to any living parent of the minor. If, after notice and the hearing, the court determines the welfare and best interests of the minor will be served by the requested appointment, the court will appoint the individual who filed the petition.
In some cases the court can appoint a best interest attorney to represent the minor in the guardianship hearings. Although generally not the case, this can happen on request or if the court determines that the interests of the minor are not adequately represented. If the minor is fourteen years of age or older, the court will give consideration to the preference of the minor. Unlike applying for guardianship of an adult, no physicians report is required to prove incapacity of a minor. Additionally, a temporary guardian may be appointed in some cases for a specific purpose and time period.
Before the court will appoint a guardian, the individual being must provide background information to the court to prove they are capable and that appointment would be in the best interests of the minor. Such information may include, but is not limited to, any felony history, prior times the person acted as a guardian for someone, fingerprints and other personal information.
A guardian has responsibilities are similar to those of a parent. A guardian can make personal decisions for the minor. These decisions can include living arrangements, education, social activities, and authorization or withholding of medical or other professional care, treatment, or advice. A guardian has the duty to make decisions that are in the best interests of the ward.
Appointment of a guardian can be avoided in certain circumstances, given proper planning and preparation. Moreover, not all cases require appointment of a guardian. If you, or someone you know needs help establishing a guardianship for a minor, contact one of our experienced attorneys today for a consultation to determine if a guardianship is the right choice and to discuss the possibility of alternatives that may better suit your particular situation.