Legal Guardianship for School Purposes

By Cindy Chung - Updated June 16, 2017
Legal guardian taking boy to school

Legal guardianship lets a caregiver make decisions and take actions regarding schooling without permanently removing custody from the child's parents.When grandparents or other relatives raise a child due to the parents' absence or inability to care for the child, they may encounter legal issues related to the child's education. Without a formal arrangement that allows the caregiver to make decisions that would normally be made by a parent, the caregiver may have trouble enrolling the child in school or accessing school records.

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School Enrollment Without Legal Guardianship

Relatives and other caregivers must often interact with the children's schools if the parents are unavailable. Whether a school may refuse to recognize a nonparent's authority to make decisions on behalf of the child depends on the laws of each state. For example, a school district may decline to accept a non-guardian caregiver's attempt to enroll the child in the school district where the caregiver lives. A school might also limit access to school records to a parent or legal guardian.

Significance of Legal Guardianship

You assume many legal rights and obligations when you take on legal guardianship of a child. These responsibilities often include major issues that affect the child's daily life, such as with schooling and medical care. As a legal guardian, you may enroll the child in the school district or private institution of your choosing. You may meet with the child's teachers in place of his parents and discuss his educational history and progress. If the child has special needs, you may participate in the development of a special education plan with the child's teachers and school administrators. Without proof of legal guardianship, the school does not have an obligation to recognize your authority.

Types of Legal Guardianships Involving Children

Several types of legal guardianship can confer rights to oversee a child's education. A standard legal guardianship allows you to take on many of the parent's rights and obligations without a transfer of custody. In a subsidized guardianship, the state contributes financially to the guardian's household if the child comes from the state's foster care system. In a standby guardianship, the child's parents arrange a guardianship to take effect only after a specific event, such as the parent's death or incapacity.

Who May Apply for Legal Guardianship

Several individuals can ask a court to approve legal guardianship of a child. The child's grandparent, aunt, uncle or adult sibling may wish to become the child's legal guardian. Guardianship may also include other adults, including court-appointed foster parents, friends of the child's parents and other individuals who would like to take care of the child.

Legal Guardianship Procedures

The procedure for relatives, foster parents or other adults to obtain legal guardianship for school purposes depends on the laws of the state where the prospective guardian and child live. The procedure may also vary if the child's parents agree to the guardianship or refuse to give their consent. Some states, such as California, require proceedings in juvenile court when the child is involved with the state's foster-care system as a dependent, but it uses the probate court for guardianship cases when the child is not in foster care. The appropriate court depends on the judicial branch of each state. The prospective guardian must usually file paperwork with the proper court, notify the child's parents and participate in court hearings in front of a judge. You might need the help of an attorney or legal aid.

About the Author

Cindy Chung is a California-based professional writer. She writes for various websites on legal topics and other areas of interest. She holds a B.A. in education and a Juris Doctor.

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