Legal guardianship is a tool that is widely in use in the Texas region. It is a legal tool given by the court that gives authority to an individual to make decisions for another person. When someone assigns a legal guardian, he/she is eliminating civil rights and privileges. This is because the legal guardian has control over another person’s life. Texas guardianships come from the person’s age, injury, disability, and health condition.
What is guardianship?
It is an order from the court given to a responsible person, the guardian, full or partial decision-making authority for an adult or a young child, the ward so that the guardian can look after the ward and protect him/her. While passing the guardianship responsibility, the court has to announce that the ward (can be a young child or an adult) is “incapacitated”, unable to take handle certain areas in life. The guardian can take responsibility and make decisions on behalf of the ward only on those areas as defined clearly by the court. It might cover medical decisions, housing, voting, money, or if the ward requires permission to get married.
Scenarios the court looks out for guardianship
Texas guardianships are taken seriously by the courts. This is more so because guardianship takes away the full or partial legal right of the war. Before granting guardianship, the court looks at the following scenarios.
- Whether the prospective guardian has already looked and opted for other support options, referred to as alternatives to guardianship.
- The court seriously looks into the protection of the child or the adult concerned when opting for alternative support options.
- Finding out if the child is completely or partially incapacitated.
- Finding out whether it is in the best interest of the ward (child or adult) to have a legal guardian.
Who cannot be a guardian?
Several individuals cannot serve as a guardian under Texas law. Such people include:
- A minor
- An individual who is indebted to the ward
- A person involved in any property dispute with the ward
- An individual convicted of certain types of crimes, like sexual abuse
- A person who is incapacitated himself/herself
- An individual who has a contract dispute with the ward
- A person who is found to be unsuitable by the court due to conflict of interest of any other valid reason
Texas courts have the discretion in accepting or rejecting guardianship applications.
Guardianship legal process
There are some basic steps involved in applying for Texas guardianships.
Hiring a competent lawyer
This is one of the first steps to consider when a situation arises for an individual to seek legal guardianship. An attorney who has experience with guardianship can help understand the process and the rules. Guardianship law is completely different from the other genres of law. Moreover, it is complicated with clauses and sections that require thorough understanding. One can seek professional guardianship lawyers online on the website of the State Bar of Texas. After shortlisting the lawyers, it is important to have a face-to-face conversation with each of them before selecting one.
Getting a medical certificate
Once a lawyer is selected to process the guardianship, he will ask a certified doctor or family physician to fill out a form. The form describes the areas where the ward (a child or an adult as applicable) requires supervision and help. For instance, whether the ward is capable of dressing himself/herself, feeding, making decisions with money, the potential to drive, and other day-to-day life activities. When the medical records and a genuine certificate prove that the ward is unable to carry out his day-to-day activities without help and assistance, the court decides to grant full or partial guardianship depending on his/her physical and mental condition.
The next step in granting Texas guardianships is to show evidence to the court that the prospective guardian has looked into other alternative forms of support. For example, utilizing joint-decision making agreements, becoming a representative payee, and so on. When one is unaware of all the legal and formal terms used in guardianship law, the lawyer can help to learn about them easily.
Guardianship petition filing
When all medical records and other relevant documents required are ready, the prospective guardian and his/her lawyer can file the request for guardianship petition. This is one of the most important steps in obtaining guardianship. Thus, it is recommended that the petition must be filed correctly with genuine information lest it would be punishable under Texas law.
Assigning attorney ad litem
Once the prospective guardian’s lawyer files a petition in the court, the judge assigns attorney ad litem. Ad litem is a lawyer whose primary task is to represent the ward (child or adult) in the guardianship process and advocate their wishes and demands. Furthermore, the ad litem also investigates whether guardianship is required along with other support services that would be beneficial for the child or the incapacitated adult. He/she might also review medical reports, and talk to caregivers, other family members, and even the ward’s school (if he/she is a child).
A written report by the ad litem
After evaluating and investigating the petition, the ad litem writes a report with his/her opinion on the need for guardianship for the child or incapacitated adult. After submission, the child’s attorney ad litem files on the court, and the judge makes the final decision on the guardianship matter. If the judge grants the petition, he/she will also give importance to the wishes and demands of the ward, especially on the selection of a guardian.
Letter of guardianship
After the judge gives his final decision and grants the guardianship petition, the court provides the guardian a letter of guardianship. It is a legal document that the guardian can be used in banks, health insurance, schools, doctors, hospitals, or anywhere as required.
Applications on Texas guardianships are submitted in piles every year. The court evaluates every case minutely and verifies the authenticity and the intention of the guardians for filing the petitions. After a long, and thorough checking and evaluation, the judge decides on the acceptance or rejection of a guardianship application.