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Illinois Guardianship Laws

In Illinois, a guardian can be appointed by the court to care for a child if the parents cannot. The guardian takes on parenting roles and duties. They are usually a family member. The type of guardianship depends on what the child needs. Guardianship gives someone who is not the parent legal responsibility for a minor in Illinois.


Starting a Minor Guardianship Case in Illinois

A minor guardianship case happens when a child's parents are unable or unwilling to provide proper care and supervision for the child. This may be due to issues like drug addiction, mental illness, incarceration, or severe financial problems.

Appointing a Guardian

The court picks a guardian to care for the child from any qualified adult. This is usually a relative or someone important in the child's life that the court deems fit and willing and able to make and carry out day-to-day child care decisions.

Guardian's Role

The guardian makes major choices for the child. They take care of the day-to-day needs too. The guardian has legal responsibility as if they were the parent.

Parents' Rights

Parents do not lose all rights in a minor guardianship case. But the guardian makes most decisions about the child's care. Parents can request visits and information about the child's wellbeing. Parents may also petition for restoration of custody and termination of the guardianship.

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The Minor Guardianship Process in Illinois

To get an Illinois court to appoint a guardian for a child, you must go through a defined legal process. There are court filings, hearings, and investigations. The steps aim to determine the best caregiver for the child.

If the parents and other family members agree who should be guardian, it can be straightforward. If there is disagreement, it becomes a contested case with each side presenting evidence and arguments. Either way, the judge ultimately makes the final decision considering the child's best interests. Sterling Lawyers can guide you through the minor guardianship process.

Step 1

Filing the Petition

Someone wanting guardianship files court papers asking to be the guardian. Forms must be filled out correctly. The petition should include the child's birth certificate. Petitioners should also submit DCFS background checks and results of drug tests if applicable. A lawyer can help with the paperwork.

Step 2

Notice to Interested Parties

The person filing must tell the child's parents and other possible guardians about the case via certified mail at least 14 days before the hearing. Kids over 12 get notice too. This gives them a chance to respond.

Step 3

Initial Court Hearing

The first hearing is within 45 days of filing. If everyone agrees on the guardian, the case may end here. If not, more hearings are scheduled.

Step 4

Fact Finding Hearing

This hearing looks at facts to decide the best guardian for the child. Both sides present evidence to the judge. The evidence relates to determining the child's best interest. Home studies may also be ordered.

Step 5

Guardian ad Litem Investigation

A guardian ad litem meets with people involved and visits proposed guardian’s home. They give opinions about the child's best interest.

Step 6

Final Court Orders

At the end, the judge decides who will be the guardian. The orders say who the guardian is and for how long.

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Key Components in Minor Guardianship

In Illinois, guardianship allows someone who is not the parent to take legal responsibility for a child when the parents cannot properly care for the child. Understanding some key components can help to ensure a smoother transition for the child involved.
Guardianship automatically ends when the child turns 18 in Illinois. But kids over 14 or parents can ask the court to end it earlier. The court will decide if it is best to give the parent full custody rights again.
Call or Book a Consultation with Sterling Lawyers for helpful advice on starting or opposing guardianship.

Types of Minor Guardianship

Illinois recognizes several types of minor guardianship arrangements to accommodate different child custody needs:

  • Short-term guardianship provides temporary care for a child when parents are unable to do so. It is intended to last one year or less, though the court may grant extensions.
  • Plenary guardianship grants permanent, long-term care responsibility when a child cannot safely remain with their parents. This type makes the guardian the child's legal caretaker indefinitely.
  • Standby guardianship names a backup guardian to assume care of the child if something happens to the biological parents, such as incapacitation or death. This allows a smooth transition for the child's custody.

The court determines the most appropriate guardianship type based on the child's circumstances and best interests. Consulting an attorney can help ensure you pursue the right guardianship arrangement.

Guardian's Responsibilities

The appointed guardian takes over custody and control of the child, making major decisions about education, healthcare, and other needs. Some parental rights like visitation may remain. A guardian essentially becomes the parent, handling big choices and daily care. The guardian's exact duties depend on the court-ordered guardianship type, but generally they have primary authority over the child.

Parental Rights under Guardianship

While a guardian assumes primary responsibility for a child, guardianship of a minor does not terminate the biological parents' legal rights. Parents retain the right to petition for termination of the guardianship and restoration of their custody rights under certain circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does guardianship override parental rights in Illinois?

While a guardian assumes primary responsibility for a child, guardianship does not terminate the biological parents' legal rights. The parents can petition the court to terminate the guardianship and regain decision-making power for the child if circumstances change.

Is guardianship permanent in Illinois?

Guardianship in Illinois can be either temporary or permanent depending on factors like the child's age and circumstances. A minor guardianship typically ends when the child turns 18. But a court may order “plenary” guardianship to last indefinitely or until a certain age beyond 18.

What is the difference between custody and guardianship in Illinois?

Unlike custody, which is for a biological parent, guardianship grants someone else responsibility for a child's care and well-being. But guardianship does not always revoke the biological parents' custody rights. Guardianship simply gives primary control to the appointed guardian instead of the parents.

How do I reverse guardianship in Illinois?

To reverse guardianship in Illinois, the biological parents must file a legal petition called the “Petition to Discharge Guardianship” in the county court that originally ordered the guardianship. This asks the court to end the guardianship and restore the parents' rights.

How long does legal guardianship last in Illinois?

In Illinois, minor guardianship automatically terminates when the child turns 18 years old. However, minors can petition for their own discharge at age 14. The initial court order appointing guardianship will specify the exact duration intended, whether a few years or indefinite. The judge decides the length of guardianship based on the child's situation.

How do I get legal guardianship of a minor in Illinois?

To obtain minor guardianship in Illinois, first file a petition in the proper county court. Provide evidence like affidavits showing that appointing you as guardian serves the child's best interests. If the judge agrees, the court will issue an order granting you guardianship.
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