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What is Guardianship and How Does it Work?

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For some people, the notions of guardianship and custody are like two peas in a pod. At a closer look, however, they are not. Truth be told, they are similar, but not the same thing.

In the following, we’ll explain how guardianship differs from custody. In the aftermath, you’ll learn whether or not it’s an option that you should exercise. Let’s start our comparison by defining the term “custody”.

What Is Custody?

Unfortunately, custody goes hand in hand with divorce – the parent who has the custody is the legal representative of the child/children and makes all the decisions on their behalf.

Custody cannot occur in an unbroken family because in this case, both parents share the task of deciding what’s best for their offspring. Now, in a sense, the guardianship that so many people fail to understand is custody – it’s only that none of the parents are involved.

Guardianship Explained

Let’s illustrate this with a couple of examples: 1) in the wake of the divorce, the legal custodian of a child is so shook up that he/she isn’t capable of taking proper care of said child or 2) the court decides that the custodian has certain issues (alcohol, drug abuse) that render him/her unable to behave as a parent.

In such extreme cases, the custody of the child can actually go to a 3rd party. Obviously, we’re not talking about a company. The 3rd party is usually a member of the custodian’s family or a good friend.

The guardian therefore becomes the legal custodian of the child/children and can take all the decisions he/she sees fit for them. It goes without saying that this guardian will have to provide all the financial support a child needs to grow up.

Can I Reclaim The Custody Of My Child?

You’d be inclined to believe that you can do that whenever you please. However, the vast majority of courts will be extremely reluctant to give back custody to a parent until the child has become 18-years old under guardianship.

A guardianship attorney can make a case for you but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will actually get back the custody of your child, especially if the guardian has provided your child with support for years on end.

Guardianship, at a first glance, is an easy thing to do, but there can be some severe repercussions (getting custody back, for instance). This is why you should think twice before you give custody up.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, custody and guardianship are very similar notions – only the custodian differs. In custody, the custodian is one of the natural parents of the child/children. In guardianship, on the other hand, the custodian becomes a 3rd party: a member of the custodian’s family or a close friend.

Again, guardianship can prove to be problematic, so we advise those who think of doing this to consider both the advantages and the disadvantages that comes as a package deal with it. This way, they’ll be on the safe side.

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