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How Do I Become a Legal Guardian?


A legal guardian is an individual who can make legal decisions for another person who is incapable of making decisions either because they are a minor or because they suffer from incapacity or cognitive impairment. Legal guardianship is most common over minors but there are also times when it’s necessary to obtain legal guardianship over an adult.

If you’re facing the legal guardianship process in Colorado, it helps to know what to expect and the Fort Collins child custody attorney at The Law Offices of Stephen Vertucci is here to teach you.

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Guardianship Over a Minor

A petition for guardianship is filed in the county court in the minor’s jurisdiction. This requires ensuring that you meet the legal requirements for becoming a guardian, including the following:

  • You must be over the age of 21
  • The minor’s parents must be deceased or agreed to the guardianship, or they are unable to care for the child or have had their parental rights terminated
  • The court must review your criminal history and credit report to clear you for guardianship

If you meet the guardianship requirement in Colorado, you must fill out the appropriate paperwork and file the petition in the correct district court. Within 30 days of filing the petition for guardianship, you must complete and file a second petition confirming the guardianship appointment and file it in the same district court. Finally, the notice of guardianship is mailed or hand-delivered to the minor if the minor is of reasonable age—typically age 12 or more—to the parents or adults with custody of the minor. Once the notice is officially served, it’s added to the petition for guardianship

Types of Guardianships

There are three types of legal guardianships in Colorado, each serving specific purposes, including the following:

  • Emergency guardianship: This guardianship authority is put into place in emergency situations in which a child’s physical or emotional safety is in jeopardy and no one has the authority to act on behalf of the child. An emergency guardianship lasts up to 60 days.
  • Temporary guardianship: This authority lasts up to six months and may be authorized when there is an immediate need for guardianship for the best interests of a child.
  • Permanent guardianship: This guardianship authority lasts until the minor turns 18 years old or until the court ends the guardianship.

Guardianship gives the adult guardian authority over the child’s legal decision-making for medical care, education, religion, and extra-curricular activities.

Is Guardianship the Same as Custody?

Guardianship is similar to legal custody of a child but not necessarily the same as physical custody. A child’s guardian may have physical custody, or they could have only legal decision-making custody over a child who resides elsewhere.

What Is Adult Guardianship?

When an adult is incapable of making decisions due to impairment, incapacity, or dementia, another qualified adult may seek guardianship over the individual to make important legal decisions. Adult guardianships are often the individual’s personal representative named in a will or estate plan, an adult child seeking guardianship over an aged parent, or the parents of a cognitively impaired child who seeks legal guardianship over their child after they are emancipated at age 18. Contact our family law lawyers in Fort Collins for more help.

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