What Are the Basic Steps of Establishing Legal Guardianship in Oklahoma?
Parents are automatically the legal guardians of their children. Parents are legally obligated to care for and ensure their children’s health and safety. However, there are other situations where parents are unavailable or unable to care for their children for various reasons, including illness, death, or situations involving abuse and neglect. If a parent cannot or will not care for their child, then a guardian may need to be appointed.
What is a Legal Guardianship?
A legal guardian is someone who is approved by a court to make decisions for another person. They are often appointed for minor children, but they can also be appointed for incapacitated adults as well.
The person the guardian cares for (the minor child) is called the “ward.” A guardian makes decisions on behalf of the ward because they are incapable of making those decisions themselves.
When Would a Legal Guardianship Be Necessary?
In most situations, the parents of a minor child can only be legally removed as a guardian if they are deemed unfit as a parent. A parent might be considered unfit in the following circumstances:
- Child abuse or neglect has occurred
- High-conflict divorce situations which compromise parental decision making
- Death or incapacitation
There is one exception to this general rule, however. Parents can appoint a temporary guardian of a child if certain circumstances occur. A temporary guardianship might be appropriate if the parent is a single parent and is being deployed, for instance. Temporary guardianship might also be appropriate if one or both parents are temporarily incarcerated.
How to Establish Legal Guardianship in Oklahoma
The first step to start the guardianship process is to file a petition with an Oklahoma court. Usually, the petition should be filed in the county where the child has lived for the past five years. In most situations, the person filing the petition is the individual who wishes to be the guardian. However, this may not always be the case.
Guardianship and DHS
The Department of Human Services (DHS) is often involved in situations where abuse or neglect has been alleged. DHS might be involved in asking you to obtain a guardianship in certain emergency situations to avoid children being taken into state custody.
Grandparents can request guardianships for their grandchildren. This often occurs in the context of a case involving DHS, where a child has been removed from a home and placed in a safety plan until it can be determined where the child should reside. This temporary removal from home usually occurs because there is some health or safety risk that the child is facing in their current location, but DHS wants to avoid taking the child into state custody.
Instead of having the child go into state custody, grandparents in Oklahoma can request that the child stays with them. Ideally, children are placed with family members if possible, so many grandparent guardianship requests are successful.
Learn More About Oklahoma Guardianships
Contact a family law attorney with Owens Law Office for more information about legal guardianships in Oklahoma. We can often provide assistance to anyone considering establishing guardianship for a minor child.