An obvious but important question to ask yourself before you take any steps to establish a guardianship is whether you're truly prepared for the job. To find out, ask yourself these questions:
Do you want the ongoing responsibilities of a legal guardianship -- including potential liability for the child's actions?
If you'll be managing the child's finances, are you willing to keep careful records, provide a court with periodic accountings, and go to court when you need permission to handle certain financial matters?
What kind of personal relationship do you have with the child? Do you want to act as the legal parent of this child for the duration of the guardianship?
What kind of relationship do you have with the child's parents? Will they support the guardianship, or will they more likely be hostile, antagonistic, or interfering?
Will the guardianship adversely affect you or your family because of your own children, health situation, job, age, or other factors? Do you have the time and energy to raise a child?
What is the financial situation? If the child will receive income from Social Security, public assistance programs, welfare, a parent, or the estate of a deceased parent, will this be enough to provide a decent level of support? If not, are you able and willing to spend your own money to raise the child?
Do you anticipate problems with the child's relatives -- including parents -- who may suddenly reappear and contest the guardianship? (This is rare, but it can happen.)
It's smart to consider your options carefully before initiating a guardianship proceeding. After honestly answering the questions above, you may need to rethink your plans.
For More Information
To learn more about guardianships, see Nolo's Encyclopedia of Everyday Law: Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Legal Questions, by Shae Irving and the editors of Nolo (Nolo).