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Guardianship and Severance of Parental Rights

David Cantor explains Guardianship and Severance of Parental Rights in Arizona:

Guardianship can serve as an effective solution for families facing challenging situations. Some families establish guardianships over minor children in order to enroll the children in a better school district. Guardianship may also allow children to benefit from the guardian’s health insurance. Guardianship can also maintain family continuity in times of crisis, when parents are unwilling or unable to take full responsibility for their child.

Most guardianship proceedings in Arizona take place in Superior Court, Probate Division. Parents often nominate a family member to serve as guardian, and the court usually approves the parents’ choice. If the child is over fourteen years of age, the child must also consent to the guardianship.

If a parent objects to the guardianship, a hearing will be held and the court will enter a decision considering the best interest of the child. Contested guardianships may be transferred to Juvenile Court for adjudication. If the nominated guardian is not a relative, the guardian must pass a background check and be fingerprinted, which can delay the guardianship for several months.

Once appointed, the guardian will have the power to decide on personal matters, health care and living arrangements for the child as well as education. A parent who has consented to guardianship may request termination of the guardianship, as long as parental rights have not been severed. Terms, conditions and schedules for visitation may also be subject to formal agreement if the parties are unable to agree.

Severance of parental rights may occur if the court finds that the parent has abandoned, abused or neglected the child. Severance of parental rights may also occur if the parent suffers from mental illness or is incarcerated for a felony which indicates unfitness or carries a lengthy sentence.

Severance of parental rights requires a thorough investigation and social study by a qualified social service agency. The court generally does not terminate parental rights in a contested matter unless an adoptive home is waiting for the child. In most cases, termination of parental rights does not terminate the parent’s responsibility to pay child support until the child is adopted.

While there are many similarities between guardianship and severance of parental rights, the biggest difference is that with a guardianship parents are permitted to maintain an ongoing relationship with the child as well as having the right to withdraw consent and petition for termination of the guardianship. While guardianship may be temporary, severance of parental rights is permanent.

You may find it helpful to consult a knowledgeable attorney to review your unique situation and advise you on guardianship and other family law issues. If you would like to schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, please give our office a call at (602) 254-8880 or send us an email through out secure, confidential form.

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