Guardianship of Minors
When someone cannot legally, mentally, or physically care for themselves, the Virginia courts may appoint a guardian to care for and make decisions for that person—known as the ward. While it's not uncommon for wards to be adults, the majority of wards in the Commonwealth of Virginia are children.
Fairfax County and other Virginia courts are likely to assign a guardian in cases where:
- The minor child has been abandoned by the parents
- The minor child's parents have died
- The parents of the minor child are abusive, neglectful, or incompetent
- The parents of the minor children are incapable of caring for the minor child
The Virginia legal system utilizes three different kinds of guardianships to foster the care of minors: guardianship of the person, guardianship of the estate, and guardian ad litem. Depending on the circumstances, the guardian can be a person with whom the child is familiar, but that is not always a requirement. Whoever the Virginia courts appoint, the guardian is responsible for certain aspects of the juvenile's life.
Guardianship of the Person – This type of guardian is appointed to look after the physical and personal needs of the child, including food, shelter, schools, medical decisions, et cetera. This type of guardian assumes all parental authority for the minor child until he or she reaches eighteen or is determined to longer be needed by the Virginia courts.
Guardianship of the Estate – This person works as a fiduciary trustee for the minor with regards to his or her assets. If the minor has an inheritance or a trust, the courts may deem it necessary to appoint a guardian to make decisions with regard to that money until it is exhausted or he or she becomes an adult.
Guardian ad Litem – A person appointed by the courts to represent a juvenile's legal interests in court proceedings. Guardians ad litem may be used by the Fairfax County or Virginia courts for divorces, abuse/neglect cases, or in probate situations.
To state that there's a tremendous amount of responsibility and trust imparted to each type of court appointed guardians would be an understatement. Guardians can be the most important person in the lives of children until they are grown. Consequently, guardians are people who are at least perceived by the Virginia courts to be honest, in possession of sound judgment, and have the best interest of the child or children in mind.
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