Becoming the Legal Guardian of Your Disabled Child

Page content

Parents of disable children often assume that their ability to make decisions for their disabled child will continue after the child turns 18. This is not true. Upon reaching the age of 18, everyone is considered an adult, and allowed by law to make their own decisions. If your child has a disability that will keep them from being able to make responsible decisions, then you should consider applying for guardianship.

Guardianship Options

There are different guardianship options available depending on the capabilities of the disabled child. Some things to consider before making a decision on which type of guardianship you should seek are:

  • Will the disabled child be able to live on their own?
  • Will the disabled child be able to manage their own medical needs?
  • Will the disable child be able to manage their own financial needs?
  • Is the disabled child easily manipulated into doing things by others?

If your child will not be capable of responsibly doing any of these things, then you should apply for full guardianship. Full guardianship will give you the right to make decisions on living arrangements, medical care, financial issues, etc.

If your disabled child is capable of making some limited decisions on their own, then you should consider filing for limited guardianship. This option will limit what you are responsible for and give the disabled child more control over their life after they reach the age of 18.

For example, your child may be capable of living on their own. But may not be able to accurately and responsibly handle their finances. So you would need to have limited guardianship over their financial issues, like paying their rent, utilities, and other bills.

Things you will need before you file for guardianship

  • Copies of medical records
  • Letters from doctors that state what your disabled child can and can not do
  • Letters from your disabled child’s teacher that state their observations of your child’s capabilities

The laws in each state are different, so contact an attorney in your area. They can explain the local laws to you, and tell you everything that you will need to know in order to file for guardianship in your state.

Don’t wait until the last minute to file for guardianship. Going to court for any reason can be a long and drawn out process. Start the proceedings early enough so that the decision is made before your disabled child reaches the age of 18.