Responsibilities of a Legal Guardian

woman and young girl bonding while drawing laying on the floor - Guardian responsibilities concept
A guardian may be appointed by a court for a child in cases where the child’s parents are unable to meet their best interests or are unwilling to care for them. Unlike with adoption, when a guardianship is established, the legal parent’s rights typically are not terminated by the court. Nevertheless, it’s essential to understand that a guardian has the same responsibilities to the child that a parent would — and specific obligations to the court that must be upheld. If you are considering petitioning for legal guardianship of a child, it’s vital to be aware of your responsibilities. Under Oregon law, guardian responsibilities include the following:

A Guardian Will Decide Where the Child Lives

Among the most important guardian responsibilities is deciding where the child lives. Typically, the guardian has physical custody of the child and the child will live with the guardian. When the child lives with the guardian, the guardian will make decisions about the child’s long - and short-term care needs. However, sometimes a child will be placed in a facility such as a youth home, mental health facility, or some other facility that meets the child’s needs. In cases like that, the guardian is still responsible for ensuring that the child has a safe, stable home environment, and their best interests are met.

A Guardian Must Supply the Child with Necessities

A guardian has all the rights and duties that a parent would when it comes to caring for the child and providing them with what they need to thrive. Importantly, a guardian must attend to the daily needs of the child and provide them with food, clothing, shelter, and incidental necessities. However, a guardian is not responsible to financially support the child — the child’s parents still have an obligation to pay support. In some cases, guardian assistance payments may be provided through the Oregon Department of Human Services.

A Guardian Must Ensure the Child’s Educational Needs are Met

A guardian has the responsibility to make decisions regarding the child’s education. This includes deciding where they will attend school and providing them with the educational resources they need. Guardian responsibilities also include providing care and discipline for the child and ensuring their social needs are met.

A Guardian Must Decide on Appropriate Contact Between the Child and Their Parents

The fact that a guardianship is in place doesn’t mean that a parent’s rights will be terminated. A guardian is simply appointed to help ensure the best interests of the child are met while the parents are unable to care for the child. A child should be able to maintain the connections they have with their parents, siblings, and other relatives while the guardianship is in place. Unless the court orders otherwise, guardianship responsibilities will include determining appropriate contact between the child and their parents.

A Guardian Must Make Decisions on the Child’s Behalf

A guardian has the responsibility to make any decisions of legal significance when it comes to the child — just as a parent with legal custody would. A guardian also has the authority to consent to the child’s marriage or enlistment in the Armed Forces if the child has not yet reached the age of majority.

A Guardian Must Apply for Any Benefits to Which the Child is Entitled

Guardian responsibilities include applying for benefits that the child may be eligible to receive. These can include things like Social Security or public assistance benefits. Once the benefits have been obtained, the guardian must use them to provide for the child’s care.

A Guardian Must Authorize Medical Care for the Child

A guardian is responsible for ensuring a child’s medical needs are met. They have the authority to authorize any type of medical care the child requires, including in emergency situations. For instance, a guardian may authorize a child’s medical care, dental and orthodontic care, psychiatric and psychological care, as well as other ordinary medical treatment. Guardianship responsibilities can also include authorizing surgery and other urgent care when necessary.

A Guardian Must Report to the Court

In addition to their responsibilities to the child, a guardian has a number of obligations to the court. Critically, they must provide a verified written report to the court within 30 days each year after the anniversary date of their guardianship appointment. The report must be filed annually until the guardianship ends or the child turns 21. It must include information concerning parental contact, the child’s physical condition, names of healthcare providers the child has seen, medical treatment the child has received, and a description of the child’s emotional health condition. The guardian must also report on the child’s school attendance, recreational activities, and achievements.

Contact an Experienced Oregon Family Law Attorney

If you are facing a guardianship matter, it’s crucial to have a compassionate and experienced family law attorney on your side who can guide you through the process. Based in Salem, Litowich Law provides committed counsel and knowledgeable representation for a wide variety of family law matters, including those involving guardianships, throughout Oregon. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation.
Categories: Guardianship