WHAT IS GUARDIANSHIP?
A guardian is a person or an agency that the court gives authority to be responsible for a child’s care. The Family Court may grant guardianship of a child 18 years of age or younger, or of an 18-21 year old with the young person’s consent. Guardianship is similar to custody and to adoption: a person petitions to care for and be legally responsible for a child.
An adult relative, family friend, or a child protective agency may petition the court to be appointed the child’s guardian. Guardianship is the most extensive power, short of adoption, that a court can give a non-parent. It is not a permanent relationship; it ends automatically when the child reaches 18 years of age (21 if the child consents) or when the child marries or dies. The child’s guardian can, among other things, obtain or consent to medical, educational, and mental health services; consent to marriage; consent to enlistment in the armed services; and consent to the inspection and release of confidential medical records.