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Family Law and the Basics of Guardianship

In matters of family law, it is often necessary to appoint a guardian. This term refers to someone who has the legal authority to make decisions for someone else, referred to as the ward or protected person.

When Is a Guardian Appointed in a Family Law Case?

Under Utah family law, an adult who has lost the capacity to make his or her own decisions may have a guardian appointed to them.

The court may also appoint a guardian if an adult has a mental or physical disability or disease, or is addicted to drugs or alcohol. However, the judge will only consider guardianship if the adult’s impairment affects his or her safety, health or ability for self-care.

More often, the court appoints a guardian for a minor child.

If a child has no adult to make decisions on his or her behalf, the courts will establish a guardianship to last until the child has reached age 18. The appointed individual will often be the primary caregiver of the child, living in the same home and fulfilling a parental role.

How Is a Guardian Selected in a Family Law Case?

Judges generally prefer to choose someone who already has a relationship with the ward to be the guardian.

The person chosen as guardian may be a step-parent, grandparent, another relative, a family friend, state employee or a private individual who is familiar with the ward.

As guardianship is an important task, whoever is chosen must be both willing and capable of representing the best interests of the ward. The judge will consider many factors in making a selection, including the character, history and physical capacity of any suggested guardian.

Guardians vs. Conservators — What’s the Difference in Family Law?

The courts may decide to appoint a guardian or a conservator — or both. These roles may be filled by two different people or just one. So what’s the difference?

A guardian is responsible for making decisions regarding the personal well-being of the protected person. This typically involves handling the ward’s day-to-day health care, nutrition, education and other personal needs. A conservator, on the other hand, is appointed to manage the ward’s estate and other financial affairs, including bank accounts, bills, and investments.

In cases where a conservator is not assigned, the guardian may take on some of the responsibilities of a conservator.

If you have a loved one who is no longer able to handle his or her own affairs, contact the Burton Law Firm of Ogden, Utah. We understand how difficult these situations can be, and we will work closely with you to ensure your family’s well-being.

Please contact us today to learn more about guardianship and conservatorship as they relate to matters of Utah family law.

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