As a general rule, guardianships are not granted unless:
There are some circumstances where you can get a guardianship over the parents' objections, but you'd usually have to prove that the parents were unfit. You would need a lawyer's help for this.
Other family members—siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles of the child—are also entitled to know that you are pursuing a guardianship, and have a right to object. You should probably consult a lawyer if anyone in the child's family tells the court that they object to you becoming the guardian.
Unless a court terminates the biological parents' rights (uncommon in most guardianship situations), the parents are responsible for supporting their child. In reality, however, financial support often becomes the guardian's responsibility. The guardian may choose to seek financial benefits on the child's behalf, such as public assistance and Social Security.
Any funds the guardian receives for the child must be used for the child's benefit. Depending on the amount of money involved, the guardian may be required to file periodic reports with a court showing how much money was received for the child and how it was spent.
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:
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.
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).
To put a guardianship in place, you will start by filing guardianship papers in court. A court investigator will likely interview you, the child, and the child's parents if they are alive and available. The investigator will then make a recommendation to the judge. The judge will review the case and decide whether to appoint you, usually after a hearing. The court must find that the appointment is in the best interests of the child.
If you want to name a guardian for your own children in case you aren't around to take care of them, use a will to name the person you want to take care of them. (If this is what you want to do, read Nolo's article Guardianship for Your Children.)