Parents are responsible for meeting children’s needs, including food, clothing, housing, education, health care and dental care. The children also need to be cared for, protected and reasonably disciplined. When parents cannot meet the children’s needs, other arrangements must be established.
Guardianship is most frequently used when relative caregivers wish to provide a permanent home for the child and maintain relationships with extended family members but there is not a termination of parental rights.
My child left my grandchildren with me and disappeared. How can I get the authority to enroll them in school?
There are five possible legal arrangements each with its own requirements. They are Adoption, Guardianship (three different types) and Legal Custody. In some of these arrangements, the rights of parents are completely terminated, in others they are shared with a Guardian.
Adoption means the adopter takes over full responsibility for the child. Parental rights have been terminated so the parent is not expected to be financially responsible and has no visitation rights. The Child Protection Division courts are involved if the rights were terminated because of neglect. If the child has been a foster child, the financial assistance may continue even if the child is adopted. Adoption provides the child with a lifelong family relationship. See a more complete discussion on the Adoption page.
Guardianship from the Child Protection Division
Guardianship authorized by the Child Protection Division: Child Protection Division courts hear cases that the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services initiates–usually involving child abuse and neglect. Sometimes they may decide to name a guardian rather than terminating the parents rights. The guardian is responsible for
financially supporting the child until DCFS stops the subsidy payment and the court vacates guardianship (whichever event happens last).
Guardianship from the Probate Court
Probate Court originally had jurisdiction for establishing guardianship for minors related to death of parents. They now also handle requests for Guardianship in other situations. This usually happens when a non-parent has been providing daily care and needs authority to enroll a child in school or enable them to receive medical treatment. Parental rights are not terminated.
Major decisions regarding school, medical treatment and consent for most other major life decisions are made by the Guardian. Birth parent/s retain important rights, e.g., choice of religion, visitation and consent to adoption. The child has no rights of inheritance from the guardian unless the child has been included in the guardian’s will.
Short Term Guardianship Agreement
Short Term Guardianship is established by a specific Illinois form (follow above link) that specifies the terms of a short-term guardianship that is good for no more than 365 days. The form needs to be signed by parent(s) and witnessed, but does not require a court appearance. This does not affect parental rights. It is often used when one parent’s location is unknown and the other parent must be away from home for a period of time, an example being when they are in jail. It may not be effective immediately but wait for a “triggering event” and it contains conditions for when it is to end.
Legal Custody is determined by the Domestic Relations Court, usually in a child custody dispute. Sometimes the court will award legal custody to a non-parent if the parents are not considered to be appropriate parents.
Every situation is different, so call us at (312) 558-9100 for a free phone consultation for advice about your situation.