What does guardianship or conservatorship mean? It means being legally responsible for someone who is not able to take care of his or her personal affairs, as in the case of minors. There is also the matter of adult guardianship, but this discussion is mainly for minors and adult children with developmental disabilities.

According to federal and Arizona state law, guardianship grants a person other than the parents the legal authority to take care of minor children. A legal guardian or conservator could be a grandparent, a foster parent, a family member, a relative, a family friend, or some other person or entity, but it’s usually the next of kin who is tasked to act as guardian.

It means that the legal guardian gets physical custody and has authority in making decisions regarding the child’s education, as well as his or her physical health and medical treatment. Guardians generally take on a parent’s role during a certain period of time, adopting most parental rights and responsibilities.

Types of Guardianship

As per the guardianship law, a person may petition the family court for one of two types of guardianship of a child. They’re distinct from each other and have different requirements. Here is some general information on these guardianships.

  1. Title 14

This type of guardianship is easier to apply for, but in order to obtain it, the petitioner must have the consent of both legal parents, except in cases where a parent has lost legal rights to the minor child or is already deceased.

What do you need to know about Title 14 guardianships?

  • They’re typically for the appointment of a temporary guardian for short periods, e.g. if a parent is away, either vacationing, working, or on deployment.
  • They’re granted through probate court.
  • They are revocable and can be ended at any time by the legal parent. There’s almost no possible way to stop parents when they move to end the guardianship.
  • The parent has to ask the court to terminate the rights, duties, and responsibilities of a guardian, whereupon the court judge scheduled a hearing.
  1. Title 8

This type of guardianship is a bit harder to obtain, although the consent of both parents isn’t necessary, as what is common in cases of involuntary termination of parents rights or when parents are guilty of incapacity or incompetence in some way, whether it involves mentally or physically incompetent adults, a mentally ill parent, neglect and abuse, or lack of financial resources. It often involves social workers and Child Protective Services.

What do you need to know about Title 8 guardianship?

  • Whether the parents like it or not, someone can petition the court for guardianship of their minor child or developmentally delayed adult child if he or she believes that it is in the child’s best interest for the parents to lose legal custody.
  • These guardianships are obtained through the juvenile court system.
  • These guardianships or conservatorships are more lasting, if not permanent, especially upon the loss of parental rights. Permanent guardianship, in this sense, means that the legal guardians or conservators get to keep the child or conservatee in their personal care until he or she reaches the age of majority or there is a court order to revoke the guardianship.
  • There is a hearing scheduled by a court to obtain a Title 8 guardianship. If a parent is unwilling and opposes the petition for the appointment of a guardian, evidence and testimonies will be necessary. The court may assign an expert to represent the child and make recommendations regarding the child’s best interests.
  • It is more difficult to terminate these guardianships. Someone has to file a petition. This will be followed by a hearing wherein testimony and evidence will be considered to determine if termination of the guardianship is in the best interest of the child.

Basically, the situation has to be taken into account in order for the petitioner to determine which type of guardianship to apply for. When all parties, including the parents, agree on a temporary guardianship, Title 14 is the suitable option. When both parents give consent to a temporary conservatorship or guardianship but the petitioner prefers a longer period to act as a guardian, a Title 8 may be more suitable. When the parents do not give their consent, then the petitioner has no choice but to file a Title 8 so he or she may serve as guardian.

Petition for Guardianship Process

The duration of this legal process largely depends on the consent of the parents. Whether it’s a Title 8 or Title 14 guardianship, if a person petitioning for guardianship has the parents’ consent, court approval will come more easily and the legal proceedings will be completed more quickly, possibly within a month’s time.

Without the parents’ consent, multiple hearings, gathering of evidence, and investigations will be called for. All these could take months. It would be very difficult to immediately place a person under guardianship without the legal parents’ consent. In urgent situations, however, the court rules provide that a request for temporary appointment of a guardian ad litem for the duration of the court proceedings may be accommodated.

Legal Assistance and Representation

If you want to obtain legal guardianship of a minor or adult with developmental disability, hire an Arizona family law attorney for legal aid. In many cases, there is a need for powers of attorney. Even with both parents’ consent, the legal forms and legwork involved may be overwhelming or too tedious for you. There are many details in court services to take into accounts such as guardianship forms and court forms, so to avoid any misstep, it’s best to avail yourself of the legal services of a lawyer.

Family law attorneys licensed by the state bar and the American Bar Association can provide legal advice throughout the process and legal representation should hearings be necessary. Call us at Zolman Law to talk to a lawyer with experience dealing with both types of guardianship.