Georgia probate courts govern the legal appointments of guardians. A guardian may be ordered for a child who needs a legal caretaker. Guardianships for minors can be granted if parents voluntarily request appointments because they are unable to care for their children. The courts may also appoint guardians over the objections of parents if it is deemed in the best interests of a child.
Biological parents are the natural, legal guardians of their children. If a child's parents are no longer living, the individual the parents have appointed in their wills becomes the legal guardian. If no appointment in a will has been made, the court selects a guardian. Divorced parents must resolve final custody and caretaker rights in a family court during divorce proceedings.
Orphaned children in Georgia may receive court-appointed, permanent guardians to care for them in the absence of their parents. Courts may also intervene to appoint guardians in cases of child abuse of neglect. If a court attempts to appoint a guardian while a parent is alive, due process must be afforded to allow a parent to object.
Sometimes a child may require a temporary guardian. This need can arise when circumstances cause parents to be incapable of caring for their children. A natural guardian must consent in writing to allow a temporary guardianship. Both parents, if alive, must be given notice of the appointment and may be heard at a court hearing. A parent's rights are not permanently terminated by the appointment of a temporary guardian.
Guardians vs. Conservators
Guardians and conservators have different, legal roles. A guardian cares for a child's physical needs. Medical decisions, custody, schooling decisions and supervision fall within the role of a guardian. A child who has financial assets may need a conservator along with a guardian. A conservator has the power to invest, distribute and manage a minor's finances. Guardians and conservators generally work together, since the conservator provides money for the child's care.