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What is Permanent Guardianship & Why Does It Matter?

What is Permanent Guardianship & Why Does It Matter?

The importance of selecting a viable guardian early in a child’s life cannot be understated. In the event a parent passes prematurely or becomes unable to deliver the caregiving needs of a minor child, having a responsible and loving family member or trusted friend ready may prove invaluable. Without someone who has the force of law behind them, your child’s future remains uncertain.

A legal guardianship is not an informal agreement between family members and loved ones. While parents can discuss and agree that a sibling or grandparent would do the right thing in the event of a tragedy or setback, the courts hold sway unless you have a binding determined estate plan in place. That’s why it’s imperative to work with an experienced attorney to create legally-binding documents that ensure the health and welfare of your child’s future. That being said, these are elements of permanent guardianship parents would be wise to promptly consider.

Guardians & Parental Rights

People who do not work in the legal system are often surprised to discover that the family court does not necessarily handle guardianships. In most cases, family court judges decide child-rearing issues such as custody, visitation, and support, among others. Generally, probate handles guardianships because they are more closely related to Last Wills and other aspects of estate planning. So, in terms of guardianships coming into conflict with proceedings such as divorce or parental estrangement, cases are often referred to the probate system.

Although the discussion here remains focused on permanent guardianship, there are many instances when parents or the courts designate temporary status. For example, there are times when a child’s parent(s) are unable to provide care, support, or make consistent decisions due to temporary incapacitation. In such instances, they could transfer authority to their designee until they are able to resume parental responsibilities. In such instances, the parent does not necessarily surrender their primary rights.

Opting for a court-approved temporary guardianship should not be taken lightly by parents. When circumstances dictate that a disability, health condition, or addiction crisis renders a parent unsuitable to handle day-to-day caregiving functions, the court may find that it’s in the child’s best interest to terminate parental rights at some juncture. In such instances, guardianships are converted from temporary to permanent even against the parent’s wishes. That’s why it’s crucial to work with an experienced attorney when agreeing to temporary guardianship.

Making A Temporary Guardianship Permanent

Although temporary guardianships are intended to come to a logical end, sometimes circumstances require change. This may be the case when someone takes on the guardianship believing a parent will recovery from their challenge or condition within a reasonable time frame. Tragically, when parents lose their battle with health and wellness matters, permanence and stability tend to be in the child’s best interest. These are common reasons people petition the court for permanent guardianships.

  • The remaining parent passes away due to illness
  • The parent(s) has been incarcerated permanently or beyond the child reaching 18 years old
  • The parent can no longer adequately care for the minor child

When a guardian wishes to change the court-mandated designation to a permanent one, there are procedural steps that must be undertaken. It’s essential to work with an experienced attorney in such matters because the court bureaucracy can be difficult to negotiate, and missteps often prove costly.

Start by scheduling an appointment with an experienced attorney to gain insight about what permanent guardianship entails. Before making this extraordinary commitment, it’s important to understand all the rights and obligations that come with it in order to make an informed decision. If you still wish to proceed, these are legal hurdles that will need to be addressed.

Meet Court Requirements

The court’s responsibility in this process is to always protect the child’s best interests. The desires of well-meaning adults run a distant second. That’s largely why Washington State, and many others, set a stringent standard for permanent guardians. These are items required under Washington State’s Certified Professional Guardianship Program.

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Have no felony convictions on your record
  • Have no misdemeanor convictions that involve moral deficiencies
  • Be of sound mind and a person the court deems suitable
  • Demonstrate financial stability and a reasonably good credit rating

Although family members may not be petitioning the court under this specific program, its requirements highlight that you will need to make a persuasive case to a judge.

Gain Parent of Current Caregiver’s Consent

In instances where the parent can no longer raise the child or someone else has a temporary arrangement, a family member or interested third-party can petition to have the temporary order transferred to them and enhanced to a permanent one. One of the ways this pathway can be processed more seamlessly is with the current caregiver’s permission. By securing an affidavit to that effect, the court may be more inclined to grant the petition.

Provide Notice To Interest Parties

Once your attorney has completed your petition and filed with the court, all relevant parties must be notified in a timely fashion. This may include living parents, family members, and pertinent people in the child’s life that may also want to take on the guardian role. Make certain that your attorney has a list of all pertinent family members and potentially interested parties. Failing to complete this procedural step could upend the process or result in civil litigation brought by a family member or person with standing.

Your Day In Court

The fundamental question the judge considers when making someone a permanent or temporary guardian for that matter is whether the legal designation serves the child’s best interest. The judge will weigh a wide range of facts in reaching a conclusion. These may include the following.

  • Emotional bonds between the child and potential caregivers
  • Ability to provide necessities such as a safe, stable home, food, and medical care
  • Financial stability of the guardian candidate
  • Educational background and employment history
  • Issues involving previous alcohol or substance abuse
  • Mental and emotional fitness of the prospective guardian

You can anticipate answering pointed questions asked by the judge or any parties who oppose or have an interest in the petition. Securing permanent status can be something of an uphill battle when competing interests come into play.

What Parents Should Consider When Choosing A Permanent Guardian

In many cases, permanent guardianships are established by parents through estate planning documents. Parents who take such proactive measures understand that they are ensuring their child will be in good hands should they die prematurely or be otherwise unable to provide adequate care.

Ranked among the most significant challenges parents face is making an informed decision about whom to nominate. But by taking time to think through the process and weigh your options, you will be able to select the best possible candidate. These are things to consider.  

  • Consider Your Core Values: Although you may be immersed in a loving family, child-rearing remains deeply personal. Parents, siblings, and other loved ones may or may not share your core values. Take an inventory about issues such as religion, political perspectives, education, integrity, and other things that truly matter. Then, see who best mirrors your core values and would make a suitable guardian if necessary.
  • Multiple Guardian Option: While it may be somewhat uncommon, there are times when the designated guardian becomes unable or unwilling to fulfill the duty. That’s why it’s in the parents’ best interest to include an alternative in your estate planning documents.
  • Financial Stability: We live in a world in which financial security matters. A guardian who manages money well may be more likely to sustain a healthy and secure home life for your child. This person may also be asked to manage any assets to support the minor or work cooperatively with your estate’s trustee.
  • Speak To Your Family: Having an open and honest discussion about your desire to enlist a family member or loved one as a potential guardian must be treated with care and compassion. Take the time to explain your reasoning in a way that does not slight or otherwise make people feel less than adequate. You are basing the decision on what you perceive as an upbringing most closely aligned with your wishes. It may be worthwhile that while you respect others’ values and abilities, there are specific reasons for your choice.

Once you have reached an agreement with a guardian candidate, it’s vital to follow through with an attorney and make the designation legally binding.

Work With An Experienced Permanent Guardian Attorney

One of the most proactive measures to ensure that your child will grow up in a safe and healthy environment if something happens to you is designating a guardian in your estate planning documents. Giving the right person the ability to make essential life decisions allows you to provide care and comfort, even in your absence. If you have not yet designated a legal guardian or would like to update an existing plan, contact Lilac City Law today.  

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I highly recommend everyone at Lilac City Law. They helped me through every step of the SSDI process. Thank you so much!!
Scott Poe
Scott Poe
00:24 02 Jul 20
I don’t know really where to start in order to cover the magnitude of professionalism, understanding, persistence and compassion Lilac City law showed me. From Randi to each one of her staff-they worked very hard on my case and pushed me to keep fighting in the midst of several set backs from disability. They were always atop of communicating with me and all others involved. I highly recommend them and not just because I received a favorable decision but because of the plan they executed; so even if the results were unfavorable-I would still not hesitate knowing I chose the right practice. Thank you for you compassion and patience😊
Joyce Kelly
Joyce Kelly
22:01 02 Jun 20
Randi serves humanity with compassion and grace in dealing with all matters of life and death. I would highly recommend her for all the services she offers.
Sarah Boban
Sarah Boban
20:14 16 Apr 20
I wholeheartedly recommend these people. I had a crazy case and at times I was a mess. My team, Randy, Pam, David, and, Marissa always treated me with kindness and compassion. Thank you guys so much for the huge difference you've made in my life.
Jenni Boo
Jenni Boo
23:24 12 Mar 20
I had my hearing yesterday for Social Security Disability. I was very nervous , but we won my case. Randy and the whole team at Lilac Law was very supportive and understanding! They truly want to help people win the benefits they deserve and I highly recommend them!
Tiffani Pelella
Tiffani Pelella
17:38 03 Mar 20
Initial meeting with David Morris went well. He treated me with respect and understanding. I felt that I was listened to. Even accommodated me when I arrived 1 hour early. Highly recommended.
Tom Richardson
Tom Richardson
18:09 06 Feb 20
The staff is so great, it was really great to work with them all, and they were able to help me tremendously! Thank you for a great experience!
Becki Lynn
Becki Lynn
23:43 28 Jan 20
Don't remember exactly when I first met with them, but they were absolutely amazing to work with and only took a few months for my disability claim to be approved.I highly recommend Lilac City Law.
Matt Napora
Matt Napora
17:46 06 Jan 20
Everyone needs to take care of their estate and make sure their family is well taken care of. Randi and her team will take very good care of you and protect you and your family’s future. You cannot go wrong using their services. Client service is their top priority!
Kim Benjamin
Kim Benjamin
21:52 02 Nov 19
Randi is a terrific lawyer and a terrific person. I wish we lived closer so that we could work with clients together more often.
Meghan Freed
Meghan Freed
17:31 02 Nov 19
They really CARE about their clients and work with passion! Highly recommend!!!
Jamile Moraes Pellicer
Jamile Moraes Pellicer
00:36 30 Oct 19
Randi and her team are knowledgeable, compassionate, and very helpful with their clients. I highly recommend Lilac City Law!
Connie Kaplan
Connie Kaplan
18:36 29 Oct 19
Excellent firm. They really care about their clients. You cannot go wrong with Randi and her team.
John Nachlinger
John Nachlinger
12:27 18 Oct 19
What a great place! Thanks again!
S Binks
S Binks
22:39 01 Oct 19
Randi and her Team helped me through my disability claim and they were there through every question I had. Great Customer Service! Timely returned calls and emails, very knowledgeable and helpful the entire time and even afterwards! Will definitely be working with Randi and her Team in the future!
Ronda Wheatley Ives
Ronda Wheatley Ives
17:02 21 Aug 19
Wow, these guys were so nice and easy to work with. It ended up that they couldn’t help us with what we needed, but the gentleman we worked with went above and beyond my expectations, and more. I could tell that they really care about people there, not just cases. He was super patient in explaining things to me when I didn’t understand, it wasn’t a stressful experience as I thought it would be. Thanks for everything guys!
Melanie S
Melanie S
06:09 21 Aug 19
Lilac City Law is an incredible firm! I had the pleasure of working with the amazing team at Lilac City Law for nearly 2 years. Their team is absolutely remarkable! They are extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and overall compassionate when it comes to working with their clients. I sought their assistance nearly 2 years ago and have continued to work with them. I had a great deal of interaction with more than just one member of the Lilac City Law team and therefore can attest to the fact that this group of individuals is absolutely unparalleled. Attorney, Randi Johnson, is an exceptionally skilled lawyer as well as an overall remarkable woman! Her support staff is incredible as well, including Cassandra, Pam, Marissa, David, etc. with all of them by your side you have been blessed and are going to receive the best results possible. I would absolutely recommend seeking assistance from this law firm, as they have the ability to change lives; they definitely did mine. Thank you all so, so much!
Torrey Tolmie
Torrey Tolmie
17:03 22 May 19
Lilac City Law went above and beyond to help my partner get her SSI. My partner had been trying to win for 12 years and finally won. We can't say thank you enough. Thank You Randi and team for all you have done.
Malick Darian White
Malick Darian White
21:33 29 Apr 19
Randi and team are amazing! We previously had our will and other documents prepared by another firm in the Seattle area where we are from. I met with Randi to update areas of my trust and was soooooo impressed with how much more she provides than the firm who first helped me. I love the short term care directive that she provides and think it is amazingly thoughtful!! Thank you so much Randi Johnson!!
Noah Gross
Noah Gross
17:36 01 Feb 19
I had a great experience with Randi and her team this past year when we worked with them to create our first-ever wills and trust. Planning for your untimely death and discussing personal finances aren't always fun topics, but we were appreciative of Randi's approach to these potentially uncomfortable conversations and especially liked the recorded legacy interview she conducted with us. Total 5-star experience!
Tine Reese
Tine Reese
20:39 30 Jan 19
I had a great experience with Randi and her team this past year when we worked with them to create our first-ever wills and trust. Planning for your untimely death and discussing personal finances aren't always fun topics, but we were appreciative of Randi's approach to these potentially uncomfortable conversations and especially liked the recorded legacy interview she conducted with us. Total 5-star experience!
Tine Reese
Tine Reese
20:37 30 Jan 19
My husband and I worked with Randi and her team to complete our last will and testament, advanced directive, and health care proxy in the summer of 2018. Randi, and her team, as well as David Morris, were exceptionally kind, very professional, and thorough. We had several meetings to go through the important stuff - the financial info, heirlooms, and disposition of my husband's motorcycle. At each meeting, Randi and her team listened to our intentions and concerns. At the signing ceremony, we got a huge binder with our info and a data stick for safekeeping. Included in our will is a review which will take place every other year. We also got a document which states who can take our children to give our babysitter in case something bad happens to us when we were out. I'm very satisfied with Lilac City Law, and their work. I would recommend them without qualification to anyone.
Anna Marie Martin
Anna Marie Martin
23:52 29 Jan 19
Parents are so intentional about so many aspects of their children's lives. Few will forgo putting together a will. But, what if you don't die? What if you are just incapacitated? Are you prepared for the unexpected? Are you leaving your children at risk? If someone else does raise them, do you know that they will be raised according to your wishes? Have you even thought through what your wishes are? All these questions and more will be covered in the process of completing a Family Protection Plan with Randi Johnson at Lilac City Law. Having our Family Protection Plan in place gives me an incredible sense of comfort and peace of mind. I highly recommend Randi and the staff at Lilac City Law. Hopefully you never need her services, but isn't it better to be prepared than to leave things to chance?
Marchauna Rodgers
Marchauna Rodgers
03:16 22 Jan 19
My Husband and I were fortunate to work with Randi on his disability case-she mindfully guided us through that process -we were so pleased with the results that Lilac City Law was of course our choice to have when producing our family trust. Again a very professional, heartfelt experience that made what seems to be a difficult process very easy thanks to Randi and her staff. We always recommend Randi to our community of friends and family. Pat and Patty Murphy
Patty Murphy
Patty Murphy
20:05 12 Jan 19
I became ill over two years ago now,at the age of 29.. I experienced seizure like movements that lasted for hours or even days at a time. The doctors were at a loss for a diagnosis so they called it a mental disorder. As I was unable to care for myself most days or work, I applied for social security and was denied. I sought the help of Lilac City Law, and was immediately greeted with compassion and action. My case was a hard one to win or prove. Amy Santa helped me and explained everything to me step by step.. She ALWAYS answered my questions and showed immense sympathy for all I was going through. My case went to trial and Amy was amazing in court and won me the benefits I so desperately needed. This process was so difficult and overwhelming on my own.. I couldn’t have done it without these amazing people and thanks to them I can focus on improving my health,and not worry about my family struggling. I’m thankful and very blessed to have had them on my side! Sincerely, Ashley Schauble
Ashley Baldwin
Ashley Baldwin
01:33 11 Jan 19
Lilac City Law did an amazing job with my estate plan, which was something I had 'thought' about doing for a long time, but avoided... Fortunately, Randi and her team made the process very easy and approachable. I now feel relief knowing everything is in order for my two daughters in the (hopefully unlikely!) event something were to happen to me. Thank you Lilac City Law for helping me sleep better at night! :)
Amber McKenzie
Amber McKenzie
03:30 09 Jan 19
This has been an awesome experience from beginning to end. Randi and her team were super helpful in helping us wrestle through all the aspects of our estate plan. Randi’s knowledge of estate and wills were very obvious from the beginning and we are thankful for her and her staffs expertise. Thank you so much!
Kevin Bunce
Kevin Bunce
17:22 12 Dec 18
This firm is the go-to for family planning and protection your children. Randi and her team are excellent!
Melinda Grimaldi
Melinda Grimaldi
01:49 20 Nov 18
I needed to get my husband's advanced health directive for a procedure he was having and it was so easy to find in our perfectly tabbed out legal binder. I found it right away, made a copy and stored it right back in the binder. Thanks for making us get it, and for making it easy to find and understand.
Jessica Gruver Koefod
Jessica Gruver Koefod
19:40 12 Oct 18
I highly recommend this law firm. They have the experience and skills to help people with their plans and their future. From their work with others, they take a pragmatic approach to law and don't over complicate things unnecessarily. With that said, if a matter is complex they are very capable of handling it.
Christine Matus
Christine Matus
09:29 05 Sep 18
Randi demonstrates a beautiful balance of expertise and compassion while dealing with difficult circumstances. I'm very thankful we had her in our corner! I can't reccomend her strongly enough.
Darin Pike
Darin Pike
16:47 25 Jul 18
Randi and her staff are the best! They help you with your case and are there if you have any questions.I highly recommend them!
Tammy Reedy
Tammy Reedy
21:56 18 Jul 18
Randi did a wonderful job of asking simple questions to help us determine exactly what type of trust we needed to match our goals. Thank you so much, Randi, for taking time out of your busy schedule to get us were we need to be!
Michelle Darnell
Michelle Darnell
02:52 17 Jun 18
Such a great meeting today with Randi. Tell me who wants to talk about wills and final arrangements, right? Well, my husband and I did this today and Randi, you made it easier than we expected. What a blessing to work with such talent and know you have our backs. Between you and Cary Wong. We will be sitting pretty, no matter what life brings us. THANK YOU!
Missy Schaaf
Missy Schaaf
01:20 31 Mar 18
Vincent Adolph
Vincent Adolph
13:30 26 Feb 18
Randi and her staff are great to work with - no surprises, and she made it all so easy. Now we have a will and health directives, so our children won't be burdened when the time comes. I highly recommend!
Sharon Robertson
Sharon Robertson
18:04 05 Feb 18
Randi and her team do amazing work. Thank you very much for what you do.
Erin Whitney-Neher
Erin Whitney-Neher
20:18 23 Jan 18
Randi are her staff are amazing! They are all very knowledgable, helpful and passionate about serving others. Every step of services are explained clearly and follow-up exceeded expectations. In addition, Randi is active in the community and regularly volunteers her time and talents putting on presentations focusing on educating others on specific topics. She has a passion for assisting those with special needs or situations. For legal assistance with heart, Lilac City Law is highly recommended!
Nadine Burgess
Nadine Burgess
18:14 25 Apr 17
Excellent staff. Very knowledgeable and go out of their way to get the job done! Would recommend to anyone looking for services they offer!
Jason Spade
Jason Spade
02:17 19 Oct 16
Randi was an excellent attorney. Her staff was excellent as well. I was treated with kindness, compassion and dedication towards winning my complex and difficult case, which ultimately happened. I am very happy that I chose Lilac City Law to represent me. I would highly recommend them!!!
Richard D. Seibert
Richard D. Seibert
15:56 03 Oct 16
Melanie Jason Carter
Melanie Jason Carter
06:46 01 Sep 16
Mia Martinez-Bermudez
Mia Martinez-Bermudez
04:22 30 Jul 16
Candice Pinares-Baez
Candice Pinares-Baez
11:00 13 Aug 14