Why might a child need a legal guardian? Can a child live informally with another person?

A child can legally live with other adults without a guardianship if the child has their parent’s permission. Sometimes that kind of arrangement is fine, but some young people need a formal guardianship because their parents treat them badly and they fear that their parents will force them to return home.  Guardianships can also help young people when their parents can’t care for them, because of lack of money, drug abuse, or being incarcerated.

Even if it’s fine with the child’s parents for the child to live with another adult, it may be hard for that adult to meet all the child’s needs without legal authority.  For example:

  • Health insurance companies won’t cover a minor on an adult’s policy unless the adult is a parent or guardian
  • Some medical providers won’t care for a minor without the signature of a parent or guardian
  • Some government benefits (welfare) rules require a minor to live with a parent, close relative, or guardian to receive aid
  • Some school issues require a parent or guardian’s involvement, especially issues around special education
  • Eligibility for school financial aid (i.e. FAFSA)

Guardianships aren’t always necessary.  If you will be away from a parent for only a short time or your parents want you to be there, the adult you’re living with can sometimes take care of your needs with a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit, a form your caregiver can sign.  LSC can help you figure out if you need a guardianship or if the Affidavit will work for you.