Anyone concerned with the well-being of a child may petition the court for appointment of a minor guardian. Even the child themself, if they are age 12 or older, may petition the court to appoint a minor guardian. The court will appoint a minor guardian for the child if it determines any one of the following three criteria exist:
- (1) Each parent of the minor consents,
- (2) All parental rights have been terminated, or
- (3) There is clear and convincing evidence that no parent is willing or able to properly parent the child.
Please refer to my blog entitled, “Minor Guardianship versus Emergency Minor Guardianship in Washington State: What’s the Difference?” from October 2021 for a better understanding of how the court determines whether a minor guardian is necessary.
If someone has filed a Minor Guardianship Petition involving your minor child, you have important rights that the court must uphold. So, what are those rights?
You have the right to an attorney at all minor guardianship proceedings.
You can either hire an attorney yourself, or, the court will appoint an attorney for you if the following are true:
- (1) You have “appeared” in the proceeding, meaning you filed a Notice of Appearance or some other response in the matter;
- (2) You are indigent; and,
- (3) One of the following is true: (a) The parent objects to appointment of a guardian for the minor; or (b) The court determines that counsel is needed to ensure that consent to appointment of a guardian is informed; or (c) The court otherwise determines the parent needs representation.
The court will consider you “indigent” if any one of the following factors are met:
- (1) You are receiving one of the following types of public assistance: Temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), aged, blind, or disabled assistance benefits, free state medical care, pregnant women assistance benefits, poverty-related veterans’ benefits, food stamps or food stamp benefits transferred electronically, refugee resettlement benefits, Medicaid, or supplemental security income; or
(2) You have been involuntarily committed to a public mental health facility; or
(3) Your an annual income, after taxes, is 125% or less of the current federally established poverty level; or
(4) You are unable to pay the anticipated cost of counsel for the matter before the court because your available funds are insufficient to pay any amount for the retention of counsel.
You have the right to notice of all court proceedings and to attend and participate.
You have the right to know your child is being placed in a safe environment.
You have the right to nominate a minor guardian for your child.
You have the right to request a limited guardianship which promotes the continued relationship between you and your child.
The minor guardianship can be either a “full guardianship” or a “limited guardianship.” When a parent retains any visitation with the child or any decision-making powers for the child, it is a limited guardianship. It is the goal of the court to maintain a relationship between you and your child unless it determines that it would not be in the best interest of your child to allow any visitation.
You have the right to request a “standby” guardian in the event the appointed minor guardian can no longer perform their duty.
You have the right to petition the court to terminate the minor guardianship.
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Every legal issue is very unique. Accordingly, the information in this blog is intended as general education material and not as legal advice. If you think you may have a legal issue, you should consult an attorney.