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Home > Blog > Guardianships > Using A Guardian Advocate For Special Needs Children And Adults

Using A Guardian Advocate For Special Needs Children And Adults


When an adult is in need of a guardian, it can often be a complicated process. An examination committee must make a determination as to what the ward (the person who will need the guardian) can and cannot do, and the court must determine not only if a guardian is needed, but the extent of the guardian’s powers over the ward.

Special Needs Children

But what about children with special needs? Children with special needs – defined in the law as those with retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, and similar disabilities—certainly need help, but they may be somewhat self-reliant and may not need the level of monitoring and supervision of a full guardianship.

When a child turns 18, he or she is an adult. a parent can no longer make decisions for and on behalf of the child, despite any special needs or disabilities the child may have.

What does a parent do when a clearly disabled child turns 18, but the now-adult is not capable of caring for himself, his finances, or making his own decisions?

Guardian Advocacy Can Help

The good news is that the law provides a vehicle to help these children, including when they become adults. It is called Guardian Advocacy.

What makes this process easier than a full guardianship is that, while you still must file a legal action in court, you do not need the court to do a full examination of the level and extent of the ward’s disabilities, or for the court to determine what the ward can and cannot do.

To qualify as an adult, the disability must have manifested before the child became an adult. The handicap must be a “substantial handicap” and must be permanent or expected to be permanent in nature.

The Process

To have a guardian advocate appointed for a special needs child or adult, a petition must be filed. In some cases, the advocate must be approved by the court. If the advocate won’t have any property rights over the ward, this is not always required.

Usually, the court will approve of natural parents to be the advocate, although there may be some complications in cases with divorced parents as both parents must agree to the advocate designation.

The court will appoint an attorney to represent the special needs child. The attorney will make a recommendation as to whether the advocate is needed or not. If the attorney disagrees and doesn’t feel the child needs an advocate, you have a right to challenge that finding and the court will hold a hearing on the matter.

Disability Payments

Note that any child who is receiving disability payments because of his or her condition, who turns 18, will need to reapply for those benefits and qualify for disability under the adult standard. That is something the advocate can help the now-adult handle.

Questions about guardianship or how it can help you or your family? Contact a Tampa guardianship lawyer at the Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A. for help.




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