The term "legal guardian" refers to someone who is appointed by the courts to take care of certain aspects of a minor's life. The parents of the minor retain some rights, depending on the type of guardianship assigned. Different types of guardianship include guardian ad litem, guardian of the estate, guardian of person, plenary guardianship, emergency guardian, interim guardian and limited guardian.
Guardian Ad Litem and Guardian of the Estate
A guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent a child when the parents' interests conflict with that of the child. This individual is typically an attorney or trained volunteer whose power dissipates once the legal proceeding has ended. Parents retain their parental rights when the minor is assigned a guardian ad litem, absent the assignment of another type of guardianship simultaneously.
A guardian of the estate is often called a conservator and is assigned to handle the estate of a minor. This type of guardianship leaves the parents' rights intact, except in the instance of the management of the child's estate. Celebrity children whose parents cannot be trusted to manage their estates often have appointed guardians of the estate.
Guardian of the Person and Plenary Guardianship
The guardian of the person is the antithesis to the guardian of the estate. It is not unusual for the parent to be appointed the guardian of person, while an accountant or attorney is the guardian of the estate.
The plenary guardian is given all of the rights that a parent would normally have, with limits specified by the court. This guardian is similar to an adoptive parent, but is not permanent; the parents retain the legal parent title and can work with the courts to retain guardianship of their child.
Emergency Guardian and Interim Guardian
An emergency guardian has the same rights as a plenary guardian, but only until a long-term plenary or interim guardian can be found. The emergency guardian is necessary in instances of abuse; and in this instance, the parent retains no rights.
The interim guardian is a temporary one who has custody until a long-term plenary guardian can be found. The emergency and interim guardians are often foster parents. When an interim guardian is appointed, the parents' rights are restricted to the court's specifications.
A limited guardian is appointed in instances where the legal parents' decisions are not in the best interests of the child. The limited guardian has authority over a specific area, such as medical decisions when the parent doesn't believe in medical care. The parent retains her rights in every other area except that which is specified by the courts in the case of limited guardianship.