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What does it mean to be a legal guardian; where can I find information?

Child Welfare
Child Custody


Legal guardianship is one of the options available to parents who are planning for the care of their children in their absence due to a variety of situations, such as illness or incarceration. It allows parents to name a caregiver and to give the caregiver certain legal rights regarding the care of the child(ren). In most cases, the parents’ legal rights are not terminated and the parents still play a role in their children’s lives. As the legal guardian, you would have custody of the children, and you would have the authority to make decisions concerning the protection, education, care, discipline, etc.

Legal guardianship is assigned by a court, such as the family court, according to State laws. You may want to consult with and/or retain the services of an attorney who practices in the area of family law in your State. If you need assistance locating an attorney, you can contact the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA provides a variety of services to the general public, including a lawyer referral service and the Consumers’ Guide to Legal Help, which provides pro bono attorney referrals and more. In addition, the following ABA website may also be of assistance, especially to anyone needing free legal help: http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/faq_freehelp....

 This website provides links to free, State legal hotlines for individuals to call and speak to a lawyer, pro bono services for special populations, and “unbundled" legal services (which means that individuals can handle part of the legal work themselves to save costs).

Last Reviewed: August 3, 2016