AskDefine | Define guardianship

Dictionary Definition



1 attention and management implying responsibility for safety; "he is in the care of a bodyguard" [syn: care, charge, tutelage]
2 the responsibility of a guardian or keeper; "he left his car in my keeping" [syn: keeping, safekeeping]

User Contributed Dictionary



guardian + ship


  1. The office or position of one acting as a guardian or conservator, especially in a legal capacity.
    ''Forbidden to you are your mothers and your daughters and your sisters and your paternal aunts and your maternal aunts and brothers' daughters and sisters' daughters and your mothers that have suckled you and your foster-sisters and mothers of your wives and your step-daughters who are in your guardianship, (born) of your wives to whom you have gone in, but if you have not gone in to them, there is no blame on you (in marrying them), and the wives of your sons who are of your own loins and that you should have two sisters together, except what has already passed; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Qur'an, The Women'', 4.23 (M.H. Shakir translation).

Extensive Definition

A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority (and the corresponding duty) to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward. Usually, a person has the status of guardian because the ward is incapable of caring for his or her own interests due to infancy, incapacity, or disability. Most countries and states have laws that provide that the parents of a minor child are the legal guardians of that child, and that the parents can designate who shall become the child's legal guardian in the event of their death.
Courts generally have the power to appoint a guardian for an individual in need of special protection. A guardian with responsibility for both the personal well-being and the financial interests of the ward is a general guardian. A person may also be appointed as a special guardian, having limited powers over the interests of the ward. A special guardian may, for example, be given the legal right to determine the disposition of the ward's property without being given any authority over the ward's person. A guardian appointed to represent the interests of a person with respect to a single action in litigation is a guardian ad litem.
Some jurisdictions allow a parent of a child to exercise the authority of a legal guardian without a formal court appointment. In such circumstances the parent acting in that capacity is called the natural guardian of that parent's child.

Guardian ad litem

Guardians ad litem are often appointed in divorce cases or in parenting time disputes to represent the interests of the minor children. Guardians ad litem are also used in other family matters involving grandparents obtaining custody or grandparenting time as well as protection orders where one parent is attempting to get an order against another party with a legal connection to the child. The kinds of people appointed as a guardian ad litem vary by state, ranging from volunteers to social workers to regular attorneys to others with the appropriate qualifications. The two divorcing parents are usually responsible for paying the fees of the guardian ad litem, even though the guardian ad litem is not responsible to them at all. In some states, the county government pays the fee of that attorney. The guardian ad litems only job is to represent the minor children's best interests.
Guardians ad litem are also appointed in cases where there has been an allegation of child abuse, child neglect, PINS, juvenile delinquency, or dependency. In these situations, the guardian ad litem is charged to represent the best interests of the minor child which can differ from the position of the state or government agency as well as the interest of the parent or guardian. These guardians ad litem vary by jurisdiction and can be volunteer advocates or attorneys.
They are also appointed in guardianship cases for adults (see also conservatorship). For example, parents may start a guardianship action to become the guardians of a developmentally disabled child when the child turns 18. Or, children may need to file a guardianship action for a parent when the parent has failed to prepare a power of attorney and now has dementia.
Guardians ad litem can be appointed by the court to represent the interests of mentally ill or disabled persons.


Guardians ad litem are also sometimes appointed in probate matters to represent the interests of unknown or unlocated heirs to an estate.
A guardian is a fiduciary and is held to a very high standard of care in exercising his powers. If the ward owns substantial property the guardian may be required to give a surety bond to protect the ward in the event that dishonesty or incompetence on his part causes financial loss to the ward.
Depending on the jurisdiction, a legal guardian may be called a conservator, custodian, or curator. Many jurisdictions and the Uniform Probate Code distinguish between a "guardian" or "guardian of the person" who is an individual with authority over and fiduciary responsibilities for the physical person of the ward, and a "conservator" or "guardian of the property" of a ward who has authority over and fiduciary responsibilities for significant property (often an inheritance or personal injury settlement) belonging to the ward. Some jurisdictions provide for public guardianship programs serving incapacitated adults or children.

Situation in other countries


While the German law has de jure became more liberal, the opposite is happening de facto: More and more persons are brought to Mental hospital against their will based on the Legal Guardianship law instead of the Mental health law, the Legal guardian decides, and the police carries it out, because this is easier for the police, the court, the municipal offices etc:
A person in Mental hospital based on Mental health law has some rights, while a person in Mental hospital based on Legal Guardianship law - in many cases - de facto has not.
Lawyers in this country also have, according to "Werner Fuss Zentrum", the tendency to abuse the Legal guardianship law for other purposes .


In California, the term Guardianship refers to a proceeding relating to minors. A Conservatorship in California, is the equivalent of a Guardianship, except that it is created for adults.

See also

guardianship in German: Gesetzlicher Vertreter
guardianship in Spanish: Curador (derecho)
guardianship in French: Curatelle
guardianship in Hebrew: אפוטרופוס
guardianship in Hungarian: Gondnokság alá helyezés
guardianship in Dutch: Voogd
guardianship in Japanese: 成年後見制度
guardianship in Polish: Opiekun prawny
guardianship in Portuguese: Curador (direito)
guardianship in Russian: Опека
guardianship in Swedish: Omsorg

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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