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What immigrants should know about guardianship for their children

With the heightened national focus on immigrants who lack legal documentation, many of those immigrants with children born in the United States find themselves in a difficult position: They could be deported but their children could be allowed to stay.

In order to plan for that possibility, many undocumented immigrants are seeking guardians for their minor children with U.S. citizenship.

Before you do the same, it's important to understand exactly what guardianship does and does not do. It's also important to understand what you should make sure that your chosen guardian has access to in order to perform his or her duties.

What is a guardian and why is one necessary?

A guardian is an adult appointed by the court to look after the well-being of a child when that child's natural or adoptive parents are unable to do so. The guardian may be appointed to look after just the child's person, just the child's financial interests or both.

Legal guardianship is necessary even if your child is going to live with relatives. Without guardianship, even an older sibling, aunt, uncle or cousin would have no legal authority to make any decisions for your child or sign any documents. He or she couldn't even enroll your child in school.

It's also important to understand that giving someone guardianship of your child does not take away your parental rights. You are not giving away your child.

What do you need to leave with the guardian?

It's impossible to cover everything that you might need to have ready, but this list is a good place to start:

  • The original guardianship papers
  • The children's birth certificates and Social Security numbers
  • The children's shot records and the names of their doctors, including any specialists and dentists
  • Any important medical information, like a child's drug allergies or the pharmacy you use to pick up your child's asthma medication
  • Health insurance information and cards
  • Any information about social services you receive, including health care
  • The names of your children's schools and school schedule
  • Any important paperwork related to their schooling, like an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for a special-needs child
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of close relatives both in the United States and in your country of origin

For more information on guardianship, talk your situation over with a knowledgeable attorney today.

Source: Judicial Council of California, "Guardianship," accessed Sep. 01, 2017

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