If you are caring for your relative and foresee it will be longer than a few weeks, you may want to establish legal standing so that you are able to protect the child, provide some stability and be able to make medical and educational decisions for the child. One way relatives can pursue legal standing is through guardianship, depending on the specific circumstances of your situation*.
In Clark County, guardianship cases are handled by Family Court- a division of the Eighth Judicial District. The laws governing guardianship are covered in Chapter 159 of the Nevada Revised Statues.
What is guardianship? A guardian is one person agreeing to be responsible for another person, another person and their estate, or another person’s estate. A guardianship of the person allows the legal guardian the ability to make legal decisions regarding schooling, medical care, religion and other aspects of day-to-day life.
Outside of adoption, guardianship is the safest, most stable arrangement for a relative raising a child. It provides legal and physical custody. It is the legal transfer of custody to someone other than a parent.
Guardianship does not terminate parental rights, but it does suspend them. The advantage to guardianship is control. It grants the guardian the legal authority to enroll the child in school, consent to medical treatment, living situations (within the state), and make many other decisions.
Guardianship has some downsides as well. The cost to petition the court for guardianship, especially if you are using a lawyer, and/or your petition is contested, can be expensive. In addition there are emotional risks. You must prove that it is in the child’s best interest to be with you, which means you are building a case against the parent.
In Nevada there are two guardianship options to consider:
- Six Month Temporary Guardianship: NV law allows for an informal type of guardianship that does not require court approval. The parents of the minor child can fill out this form which appoints a temporary guardian. Temporary guardianships can be used for school and medical purposes. They can be renewed after the six months, and are renewal and terminable at will of the parent. Click here to download a Short-Term Guardianship form and instructions from the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. This type of guardianship works if you have a good relationship with the child’s parents, if the child’s parents consent, and if it is a short term situation.
- Court Ordered Guardianship: A legal guardianship requires a court order and it is a more complex legal process best done with the support of a lawyer. If you don’t follow the correct process of filing and notifying the right individuals your petition will not be granted. However, it is possible to do it yourself, provided you have the right information. The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada has free classes and resources. Once appointed, a guardian must do what is necessary to provide the ward (child in care) with proper care, maintenance, education and support. This includes food, clothing, shelter, necessities, seeking child support from the parents, authorizing medical care, and ensuring proper education and training. The guardians must file an annual report with the court. Guardianship is terminated upon the death of the ward, 18th birthday or high school graduation, if the court feels the guardian is no longer necessary, if the ward moves to a different state, or if a parent petitions the court for termination of guardianship and the court decides to terminate.
- Clark County Guardianship Forms (Free downloads)
- Short Term Guardianship Form
- Guardianship Handbook
- To apply for Pro Bono legal assistance with uncontested legal guardianships: Child Guardianship Application for Services from the Center of Southern Nevada
*Guardianship options may not apply if you are caring for the child after Child Protective Services became involved. If you are working with the Clark County Department of Family Services, you are considered a foster parent, and will not be able to pursue guardianship on your own timeline (although it may be something pursued by DFS). Please review information for relative foster parenting. For information on licensing and kinship foster parenting, you should contact the DFS social worker assigned to your case.
For guardianship questions, please contact the appropriate resources above, or email or call Foster Kinship at (702) KIN-9988 for assistance and additional resources.