Guardianship in Virginia can be established by filing the proper paperwork with the Virginia state judicial system. This allows an adult to take responsibility for the welfare of an individual without revoking any parental rights of the biological parents. In many guardianship situations, either the parents have consented because they are unable to provide for the child or the courts have deemed the parents unfit, but not a threat to the child. Guardianships can also be granted for aging adults when they are deemed unable to mentally or physically provide for their own futures, legally and/or financially.
Responsibilities of Guardianship in Virginia
When a guardian is appointed for an adult in Virginia, it is because he is deemed mentally and/or physically incapable of caring for himself. Guardians are appointed by the court to handle the incapacitated adult’s personal affairs by making decisions regarding support, care, health and more. The guardian is only responsible for making those decisions that the court specifies in its order and must maintain enough contact with the adult to understand her needs. The guardian is not liable for the actions of the adult, unless the guardian acts negligently. When someone is needed to take over the financial responsibilities for an adult, that person is called a conservator. Often one person will act as both the guardian and conservator to an incapacitated adult.
A guardian of a minor is a person who is appointed by the court to manage the personal and/or financial affairs of a minor. The duties of a guardian of a minor are the same as those of a guardian for an incapacitated adult. Depending on the guardianship order from the court, the guardian may be responsible for decisions about the child's support, care, health and/or finances. It is important to note that guardianship of a minor does not terminate parental rights of the minor and, without a separate custody order, does not mean the guardian has physical custody.
Gather Information to Begin Guardianship Proceedings
To begin guardianship proceedings, start by gathering the necessary information that will help explain to the court why you should become the legal guardian of another individual. This may include court-ordered documents, a description of the minor's current living arrangements or a listing of the minor's or adult's financial holdings.
Fill Out a Guardianship Petition and Information Sheet
Fill out the necessary court petition and supplemental information form. The information form will be different depending on whether you are filing for guardianship of a minor or an incapacitated adult. If you are attempting to obtain guardianship of a minor, you must print and fill out the Guardian of a Minor Information form. If you are attempting to obtain guardianship for an incapacitated adult, you must print and fill out the Incapacitated Adult Information form. You can find these Virginia guardianship forms, and any other required forms on the Virginia courts website.
Submitting Guardianship Paperwork to the Court
Petitions for guardianship in Virginia are filed in the circuit court of the county or city where the minor or incapacitated adult is a resident, or where that person resided immediately before becoming a patient in a health facility. Bring your paperwork and supporting documentation to the proper circuit clerk, who will confirm your answers on the forms.
Read More: The Difference in Probate & Family Court Guardianship
What Happens After Filing a Guardianship Petition
Wait patiently for a response from the court regarding your request. If the guardianship was court-ordered, your request may be immediately approved, and you will receive guardianship documentation in the mail. In more complex situations, where you are fighting other family members for guardianship, for example, you may be required to attend a court hearing to justify your desire to obtain legal guardianship in Virginia of another individual.
Begin the guardianship process by filing either a Guardian of a Minor Information form or an Incapacitated Adult Information form with the circuit court in the county or city where the minor or incapacitated adult resides.
Sally Brooks is a writer living in New York City with her chunky toddler and patient husband. She graduated magna cum laude from the University Cincinnati College of Law and her work has been featured in Jurist and the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review.