The process of guardianship for a special needs child can be complicated depending on your situation and familiarity with the legal system.  If you need to appoint a family member as your child’s guardian, do not hesitate to ask for help.

What Does a Guardianship for Adults Entail?

In the state of Arizona there is a detailed process to establish guardianship of a special needs adult.  Ideally, you would file all required documents and complete the process when the special needs adult is between 17.5 and 18 years of age so that everything needed will be in place when the person who needs the guardianship turns 18.  If guardianship is needed for longer than 6 months, it is considered permanent guardianship and you will need to meet certain requirements.

You will need a doctor or other authorized medical professional to submit a report to the court that says that the person in question will need a guardian when he or she turns 18.  The state of Arizona requires that a special needs adult be incapacitated in some way that prevents him or her from being able to be self-sufficient.  It is important to note that a court-appointed guardian may provide outpatient services to his or her ward, but may not use inpatient services without court approval.  If you believe your special needs adult child will need inpatient services, you should specifically request this authority for the designated family member that will be acting as the guardian.   You should also be aware that once the court determines the special needs child is incapacitated, he or she will lose the legal rights to vote and drive.  However, if the child’s specific situation does not impact his or her ability to vote and/or drive, you can petition the court to allow those privileges to continue.

When you file the required documents to appoint a guardian, the court will appoint an attorney to represent the person that is named as needing the guardianship.  The court does this to ensure the ward has unbiased and fair legal representation.

If you have selected a family member as your special needs child’s guardian, he or she will need to take training on the role and responsibilities.  The Arizona state Supreme Court requires anyone that is not a fiduciary to take a training course to become a guardian.  This training will need to be completed and a certificate of completion filed with the court.

Notice of the proposed guardianship is also required.  You will need to notify the proposed ward as well as his or her parents, if the parents aren’t requesting to be guardians.

What About a Temporary Guardianship?

There are some situations where temporary guardianship is required.  In the eyes of the Arizona courts, temporary guardianship is for a period of less than six months.  Emergency or temporary guardianship can be applied for if needed.  The permanent guardianship process generally takes two months.  If you cannot wait two months before establishing guardianship or the guardianship is short term, there are other processes you can use.  You will need to prepare documents and execute notifications depending on the circumstances and then submit your paperwork to the court at a hearing.  At the hearing, you should be prepared to testify as to why the temporary guardianship is necessary.

You Need a Guardianship Attorney

While paperwork and processes are generally the same, each individual person’s needs are different.  If you are divorced and you and your former spouse are unable to agree on a guardian, you will need legal assistance.  If you have a special needs child who is able to drive, but unable to manage his or her car, you will need guidance to help retain his or her driving privileges.  If you have a situation that requires emergency guardianship, an attorney can help expedite the process and advocate for you and your child.  The state of Arizona has very specific documents, timelines and notification requirements.  Make sure you are meeting all legal specifications and providing for the future care of your child.

Designating the best possible guardian for your special needs child is very important for the continued care and wellbeing of the child.  Call the Law Offices of Paula Hannah, PLC today to receive the guidance you need.