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Guardianship in New Bern

New Bern Guardianship Attorneys

North Carolina firm helps adults establish legal responsibility for children in need

Minors who are orphaned or living in an unsafe home need an adult who will take care of them and protect their interests. In North Carolina, legal guardianship gives qualified adults the chance to assume legal responsibility for youths in need. Taking on this responsibility requires approval of a North Carolina court. Carolina Law Group, headed by Tommy Kellis, offers sound guidance on guardianship matters. From our office in New Bern, we help family members and others complete the steps necessary to become guardians.

Authority and responsibilities of a legal guardian

Someone who is appointed as a legal guardian is authorized to make decisions on a child’s behalf in the same way that parent does. In many cases, relatives pursue guardianship when a minor’s parents are not fit to make responsible choices regarding their child’s safety and upbringing. Two forms of legal guardianship exist in North Carolina: guardian of the person and guardian of the estate. A guardian of the person is responsible for handling decisions regarding the child’s daily needs, including their medical treatment and education. A guardian of the estate manages financial matters relating to the child. You may also petition for a general guardianship, which combines both types of legal authority.

Circumstances that can justify an order of legal guardianship

A wide range of circumstances may lead courts to appoint guardians for minors. A common example is when both parents of a child have died. In some situations, parents leave instructions about the person(s) they wish to assume guardianship. Courts typically honor parents’ wishes in these circumstances, but may name someone else as guardian if the judge believes it is in the youth’s best interests. Disputes might arise if one or both parents of a child are still alive or if there are competing guardianship petitions, so it is wise to retain an experienced family law attorney if you are considering taking on this responsibility. Circumstances that compel people to seek guardianships include:

  • Parent(s) with a debilitating medical condition
  • Parent(s) with a substance abuse problem
  • Unsafe home environment due to poverty and/or violent behavior
  • Parent(s) serving time for a criminal offense

Whatever your reason for pursuing guardianship might be, our firm will review the facts and give you an honest, informed assessment about the likelihood of becoming a guardian.

The difference between legal guardianship and child custody

Child custody is the term used for the authority that a parent has over their child. No matter the situation, non-parents are not granted custody. This is true even if someone establishes legal guardianship. There are instances where an adult is granted legal guardianship for a child, but the youth’s biological parent(s) retain visitation rights. Courts can also grant temporary guardianship, with parents maintaining the ability to re-establish legal authority if the court believes circumstances have changed sufficiently.

How do you become a legal guardian?

The process of becoming a legal guardian starts by applying with the clerk of the Superior Court in the child’s county of residence. You must include information about the child’s parents and any assets they might own must be included in the filing, along with a statement describing the need for a guardianship. A judge will then hear evidence to help decide if a guardianship is warranted, your ability to handle the responsibility and any parental objections. Typically, a guardian ad litem is appointed to advocate for the child’s interests in these proceedings.

Contact a New Bern attorney to learn about North Carolina guardianship

The Carolina Law Group, led by Tommy Kellis, provides knowledgeable guidance on North Carolina guardianship and other family law concerns. We serve clients in Craven County and other parts of the state. Please call 252-636-3737 or contact us online to make an appointment. Our office is in New Bern.

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