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Can you get legal guardianship of a sibling?

Are you contemplating trying to obtain guardianship over a minor sibling?

There are a lot of unfortunate reasons that an adult might want to become the legal guardian of their minor brother or sister. For example, sometimes parents die, leaving the minor without a suitable caretaker. Or, maybe the parents are alive but incapable of properly caring for their minor children because of illness, alcoholism or addiction. Sometimes, a special needs child is too much for a parent to handle. A parent and teen may even clash so badly that it's better to simply remove the teen from the situation.

Whatever your exact situation, here are some of the most important things you should know:

Guardianship will give you the legal rights you need

In order to enroll your sibling in school, open a bank account for them, manage their health care and everything else that a parental figure needs to do, you need guardianship. Typically, you will need to file a petition with the court to ask for guardianship -- and that will involve explaining to the judge why you should be your sibling's caretaker over any other choices.

The court will look toward your sibling's best interests

To make a good case to the court, it's wise to understand what goes into the guardianship and custody decision. The court will generally ask the question, "What's in the child's best interests?"

When answering that question, the court may consider things like:

  • The mental and physical condition of any living parents
  • The child's relationship with other members of the family
  • The stability of the child's current home environment and the one you offer
  • The presence of any domestic violence issues
  • The child's preferences (if the court considers them mature enough to express them)

Obtaining guardianship of your sibling isn't easy, but it can be done. Find out how an experienced attorney can help you through the process.

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