Obtaining the guardianship of a child requires the close involvement of the probate or family court. The court closely reviews a petition seeking the appointment of a guardian and then monitors the guardianship. There are specific procedures that you must understand in considering how to apply for guardianship of a child. If you are pursuing a guardianship of a child who is not biologically your own, be prepared to complete all preliminary requirements before going to court.
Obtain a home study, which is an evaluation of your physical residence and of your background. In most states a home study is conducted by an individual with a master's degree in social work who specifically is authorised by the probate or family court to undertake such an evaluation.
Review the home study, ensuring that the recommendations are affirmative or that you will be able to explain any negative remarks contained in the evaluation.
Obtain from the clerk of the court a copy of the procedural guidelines. All courts maintain certain procedures and make these guidelines available to those who intend to appear in court.
Request any standard form petitions and other templates of documents needed to pursue a guardianship case. As is the case with procedural guidelines, these materials typically are available from the court clerk's office.
Draft a petition for guardianship. In the petition set forth why the child needs a guardianship as well as your relationship, connection or association with her. Attach the home study as an exhibit to the petition for guardianship of the child.
File the petition for guardianship with the clerk of the court.
Deliver a copy of the petition for guardianship to all interested parties, which include the parents of the child and any individual (or social service agency) that has custody of the child at the time you file the petition.
Obtain a hearing date and time from the clerk of court.
Notify all interested parties of the date, time and location of the hearing on the petition for guardianship
Attend the hearing and present all evidence, including the home study, supporting your petition for guardianship of the child.
Guardianship cases are complex. Consider retaining a probate or family law attorney to assist you with your petition for guardianship of a child.
If you are not closely related to the minor child (an aunt, uncle or grandparent, for example), anticipate the court delaying your request for a guardianship to determine if one of these individuals is available to take care of and control over the minor child. The preference is to place a child with a family member if at all possible.
Tips and warnings
- Guardianship cases are complex. Consider retaining a probate or family law attorney to assist you with your petition for guardianship of a child.
- If you are not closely related to the minor child (an aunt, uncle or grandparent, for example), anticipate the court delaying your request for a guardianship to determine if one of these individuals is available to take care of and control over the minor child. The preference is to place a child with a family member if at all possible.
- Southern Illinois University School of Law: What You Need to Know About Getting a Guardianship for a Minor in Illinois
- A Place to Call Home: Adoption and Guardianship for Children in Foster Care (National Association of State Legislatures) Stephen M. Christian and Lisa Ekman; 2000
- Take Me Home: Protecting America's Vulnerable Children and Families; Jill Duerr Berrick; 2008