Family, Criminal & Children's Court Attorneys Since 1991

How the guardianship process works in Wisconsin for kids under 18

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2024 | Custody and Parenting Time |

People may use the term guardianship to refer to several distinct legal scenarios. One situation involves vulnerable older adults who cannot manage their own affairs effectively due to health challenges or age. Concerned individuals can go to court to seek guardianship when an adult cannot act in their own best interests.

Guardianship can also be necessary when the parents of a child die while they are still young. Parents name guardians in a will as a means of protection in the worst-case scenario. A guardian is essentially someone who is not a parent but fulfills a parental role in the life of a vulnerable person.

Sometimes, child guardianship is necessary even while parents are still alive. Wisconsin allows concerned adults to intervene for the protection of vulnerable children. What does the guardianship process for minor children in Wisconsin generally require?

Establishing a need for intervention

The first step when pursuing guardianship of a minor while their parents are alive involves demonstrating the need for outside intervention. Proof of a parent’s struggles meeting the needs of a child, possibly because of a medical emergency, can be part of this process.

If the state agrees that a parent may not be able to provide the support a child requires, an outside party can assume parental authority even though the child has living parents. The courts can award full guardianship, which grants all of the authority parents usually have.

They can also award someone partial or temporary guardianship depending on the circumstances. Terminating the rights of the parents is not necessary to secure guardianship the way it is to adopt. That being said, people can request guardianship after the termination of a parent’s rights. A single hearing can potentially be all that it takes to secure guardianship of a minor in many cases.

Creating effective support systems

The party assuming guardianship has a personal legal responsibility in addition to a degree of authority. They may have the same degree of personal culpability to meet a child’s needs as a parent usually does. It is, therefore, crucial for the protection of the guardian and the child who requires their support that they diligently work to meet the child’s needs. Once the courts have empowered someone to care for a child, they have an obligation to act in that child’s best interests. That duty persists until a temporarily guardianship ends or the child becomes an adult.

Learning more about guardianship of minor children can help people step up in a situation where they worry about a child who does not currently receive the support and care they require from their parents.