If you find yourself caring for a child that is not your biological child, or you have been asked to care for a child that is not your biological child, you may need to petition for legal guardianship. Acting as a child’s caregiver under an informal arrangement may be acceptable for a short time; however, if the relationship is intended to last for a lengthy period, or indefinitely, petitioning for legal guardianship is advisable.
Watching an older loved one deteriorate mentally and/or physically can be heart-wrenching. At some point, you may even become worried that your loved one is no longer capable of making financial, healthcare, and/or personal decisions. While the idea of taking away anyone’s autonomy likely concerns you, failing to act could result in serious physical or financial harm to your loved one. Pursuing conservatorship over your loved one may be the best way to protect your loved one.
The guardianship/conservatorship attorneys at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby have the compassion and experience necessary to help you decide if petitioning for guardianship or conservatorship over a minor or an older loved one is the right option.
We are committed to helping you protect a vulnerable child or older loved one.
Call for a free consultation so we can step in and begin protecting your loved ones..
What Is Conservatorship?
Conservatorship is a legal proceeding that results in a court removing decision-making power from a disabled adult and appointing a “conservator” to make decisions for the disabled adult. Tennessee Code Section 34-1-101 defines a person with a disability, for purposes of appointing a conservator, as “any person eighteen (18) years of age or older determined by the court to be in need of partial or full supervision, protection, and assistance by reason of mental illness, physical illness or injury, developmental disability, or other mental or physical incapacity.”
A court can appoint a conservator of the person and/or a conservator of the estate. A conservator of the person has the legal authority to make personal decisions for the disabled adult, such as deciding where the disabled person will live or what doctor will treat the individual. A conservator of the estate handles financial matters such as paying the disabled person’s bills and managing assets.
Because conservatorship is considered the most restrictive legal option, both types of conservatorships may be narrowly tailored to meet the needs of the disabled person. For example, the court may limit the conservator’s decision-making authority to specific areas or only give the conservator access to specific assets.
How Do I Become a Conservator?
Becoming a conservator requires you to file a petition with the appropriate court having probate jurisdiction, usually Chancery Court. Among other things, the petition must include a description of the Respondent’s alleged disability. The Respondent and close family members must be notified that a petition has been filed and have the right to file an objection. The court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, a neutral third party, to investigate and report back to the court. Eventually, a court hearing will occur at which time the judge must be convinced that the Respondent meets the legal definition of a disabled person, that conservatorship is the least restrictive way to protect the Respondent, and that you are a suitable person to be appointed as the conservator.
What Is Guardianship?
The biological parents of a minor child are considered the child’s natural legal guardians by virtue of the parent-child relationship. If the parents are unable or unwilling to act as the child’s guardian, another adult must be appointed to be the child’s legal guardian. For example, a minor might need a guardian if both parents are deceased or incapacitated. Guardianship may also be necessary if the child has been abandoned or the child is not being properly cared for because of a parent’s addiction or mental illness.
How Do I Become the Guardian of a Minor Child?
Tennessee Code §34-2-101 et seq. governs guardianship of a minor child in Tennessee. Becoming a child’s guardian requires a court process during which you must prove to the court that you are physically and emotionally fit to care for the child and that you have the financial resources necessary to provide for the child’s maintenance. The court may order a home study to ensure that your home is safe and that your home is the best place for the child. If the child in question is 12 years old or older, the court will also consider the child’s wishes when deciding who to appoint as the child’s guardian.
The Murfreesboro conservatorship attorneys at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby are committed to helping you protect a vulnerable child or older loved one by pursuing guardianship or conservatorship in Tennessee. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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