When a child or other loved one has lost caregivers or the ability to care for themselves, a guardianship is the only way to legally obtain custody over a child, or legally make care of life decisions for an adult. It is often believed that if a parent simply handwrites a note, or issues a power of attorney, that legal custody can be transferred to another adult. This is not true. Only a judge can grant custody of a child to another person. A power of attorney may be sufficient to enroll a child in school, or to seek medical care on behalf of a person who has become incapacitated, but it is not enough to give another person custody.
In Arkansas, a guardianship is a method by which the court shifts decision-making power over a child or adult to another adult. There are only two mandatory requirements for a guardian in Arkansas: they must be over the age of eighteen, and they must have no felony convictions in their criminal history. In order for a person to have a guardianship placed over them, they must be found by the court to be "incompetent." This means that they are under the age of eighteen, or, if older than eighteen, that they lack the ability to take care of themselves, because of psychological or physical limitations, or other factors.
Guardianships are, by their very nature, temporary. A guardianship will last until it's no longer needed (for example, if a minor reaches the age of eighteen), and a request is filed with the court to terminate the guardianship. A guardianship case will remain open with the Circuit Clerk until it has been terminated by the court.
Guardianship law is getting trickier every day, and maintaining a guardianship is even tougher. You must have an attorney who is knowledgeable in this very specific area of the law. Rhoads & Armstrong can help. Please call 479-254-0135 for a confidential consultation or visit our Contact page.