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How Can Parents in Arizona Navigate the Process of Legal Guardianship for Minors?

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What Is Legal Guardianship?

When an Arizona court of law establishes an official relationship between a child and caregiver other than his parents, this is called legal guardianship. This may be a vital legal step to ensure a child’s well-being and continued care. Parents and individuals considering legal guardianship should educate themselves on the different types of guardianship and the rights and responsibilities of each one.

When is Legal Guardianship Used?

Legal guardianship is established to care for a child. Some reasons it would be in the best interest of the child include:

  • The birth parent or parents will be out of state. This could be for work, military deployment, vacation, or other reasons.
  • The biological parents are unable to provide the standard of living they wish for their child. Parents can voluntarily assign legal guardianship to another while they, the parents, focus on improving their living arrangements.
  • A court of law finds the parents to be negligent in bringing up their child. In this case, permanent legal guardianship may be assigned to a responsible adult by the Juvenile Court.

What Is the Difference Between Title 8 and Title 14 Guardianship?

If you are considering guardianship, you should understand the two different types. The terms “Title 8” and “Title 14” differentiate between Permanent Guardianship and Voluntary Guardianship, respectively.

Title 8 Guardianship

The Juvenile Court establishes Title 8 Guardianship. It is initiated when a third party notifies the court that the parents are unable or unwilling to care for the child. The Court can then assign a permanent guardian who will remain responsible for the child until they reach age 18. The following rights and responsibilities will usually be transferred to the guardian to care for the child:

  • Care and Control (Custody)
  • Day-to-Day Decision-Making
  • Education
  • Medical Care
  • Protection

Biological parents have a right to file a petition to revoke permanent guardianship if there is a significant change of circumstances under Arizona Revised Statutes § 8-873.

Title 14 Guardianship

Title 14 Guardianship is a voluntary arrangement and is meant to be temporary. It may last for a specified period while parents are out of town, or it can extend until the child reaches the age of 18. Title 14 Guardianship is much easier to reverse as the parents can revoke their consent at any time and have the child legally returned to their care.

What Are the Basic Steps to Obtain Title 14 (Voluntary) Guardianship of a Minor?

Turning over legal guardianship of your child to another or assuming responsibility for a minor carries a lot of weight. The procedure should not be undertaken lightly. The Arizona court system estimates the process to take 1-2 months, but it can take longer. An experienced family lawyer can assist with the details. For informational purposes, here are the basic steps to obtain Title 14 Guardianship, to be done by the prospective guardian:

  1. Fill out your application documents. You will need to start by filling out a packet of documents. One is your Petition for Appointment of Guardian of a Minor. Others include obtaining written consent from the parents and the child if they are over 14.
  2. File your petition. You will need to officially register your application with your County’s Juvenile Court.
  3. Give notice to the involved parties. Even If the parents signed consent forms, they must be served with legal notice of the court hearing. In some cases, one parent or both may not have been available, or declined to sign a consent form. You must ensure they are legally informed of your intention to assume guardianship of their child.
  4. Give notice to the court. Before your court hearing, ensure the court is informed of any requests you have. You will need to give ten days’ notice if you require a language interpreter and at least three days’ notice if you want your hearing transcribed by a Court Reporter.
  5. Have your fingerprints taken. If you are not blood-related to the child, your fingerprints must be taken per Arizona Revised Statutes § 14-5206. Fingerprinting will be used to perform a criminal background check to ensure the child’s safety.
  6. Prepare your testimony. In the hearing, the judge will need to be convinced it is in the best interest of the child to assign you as legal guardian. Think about what you want to say and why you are the best candidate. You may also bring witnesses. If the parents are supportive of the assignment, their testimony could contribute to a successful outcome.
  7. Attend the hearing. Present your documents and testimony. If you have a lawyer, they can assist you in presenting your case as convincingly as possible.
  8. If your petition is granted, fill out your acceptance paperwork. If the judge agrees with your testimony, you will be issued an Order of Appointment. You will need to sign an official Acceptance of Appointment to legalize it.
  9. Complete the required training for legal guardians. If not completed while awaiting your court hearing, complete the required course on the Guardianship Training Manual and submit your completion attestation to the court.
  10. Congratulations, you are now a legal guardian! You have now completed the process to become a Title 14 Guardian. Keep your valuable Order of Appointment and be sure to inform the Juvenile Court of any change of address so your records are maintained.

How Does Guardianship Affect My Rights as a Parent?

Guardianship does not change your status as a parent. You retain “residual rights” in both Title 8 and Title 14 Guardianship. “Residual rights” remain with the natural parent after the transfer of legal custody. They include the privileges of visitation, consent to adoption, the right to determine the child’s religious education, and a parent’s responsibility for the support of the child.

Need to Assign Legal Guardianship? The Turner Law Firm PLLC Can Help.

Our children are our future. Whatever your reason for seeking legal guardianship, The Turner Law Firm PLLC can provide compassionate support. Let us take care of the complicated legal process so you can focus on providing a wholesome environment for the child or children that matter to you. If you are considering legal guardianship, give us a call. You can reach us at (480) 618-1221.

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