Guardianship of a Child

General Overview:

A parent or person can request that the court grant them guardianship of a child when there is concern that one or both parents are unable to care for the child. A judge may decide that a parent is unable to care for their child if the parent:

  • dies
  • abandons or neglects the child
  • is in military service and abroad
  • was deported but the child remains in the U.S.
  • is too sick to take care of the child and cannot make decisions for the child anymore

A court appointed guardian for a child has the same power to make decisions for the child as a parent would. The guardianship will typically last until the child is 18 or 21 years old, depending on the circumstances of the case and which court granted guardianship, Surrogate Court or Family Court.

To obtain guardianship of a child, a person must file a petition in court. A petition is a legal form that allows a person to ask the court for something. Any person 18 years old or older can file a petition in court to become a guardian.


  • if a child will be receiving money or property (ie. from a person who died, from life insurance, or a personal injury settlement) then the person filing for guardianship should go to Surrogate’s Court.
  • if the child will not be receiving money or property, then the person filing for guardianship should go to Family Court.
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