If a child lives with me do I need an Arizona guardianship?

You might need to establish a legal Arizona guardianship if a child who is not your own lives with you.  The first thing to consider when making this decision is how long you anticipate that the child will be in your custody.  Certainly if it is a permanent arrangement, establishing a guardianship might be a good idea.  If the child is only with you temporarily, however, you might not have much to gain from a guardianship, particularly given that it typically takes the court about eight weeks to formally appoint a guardian once it has been petitioned to do so.

While you may not require the additional authority that a guardianship provides you with for day-to-day tasks, there are certain instances for which having a guardianship will unlock your ability to act in the child’s best interest.  For example, unless you are appointed as the child’s guardian, you will probably have difficulty registering the child in school or obtaining medical care for the child.  Likewise, if the child qualifies for government assistance, you will have difficulty accessing those benefits unless you are his or her appointed guardian.  And if the biological parents are unfit to adequately care for the child, a guardianship can give you a protected legal right to care for that child, even if the parents for some reason try to prevent your

One way to look at an Arizona guardianship is that it gives you much of the parental rights and responsibilities, minus the legal obligation to provide support for the child.  Of course, if the child receives funds from another source, such as a biological parent or a grandparent, you would have a fiduciary duty to manage that money responsibly, and use it only for the child’s best interest.  It is important to understand that while a guardianship gives you legal rights, it does not sever the legal relationship between the child and his or her biological parents.  As such, so long as the biological parents are in the picture, they are obligated to support the child, and they may also have a right to participate in making decisions for the child.

Whether or not you could benefit from establishing a guardianship ultimately depends on your specific circumstances.  The length of time that the child will stay with you is definitely a factor, but many people keep a child in their custody for even years without petitioning the court to establish an Arizona guardianship.  On the other hand, other situations require people to seek an emergency guardianship so that they can act promptly for the child, even if for only a defined or limited purpose.  Under the right set of circumstances, Arizona guardianships can be a very powerful tool, and one that you should not overlook if you are caring for a child that is not your own.