Are you the parent or current guardian of a disabled child? If so, you most likely have already began thinking of the next phase of your child’s life, when he or she turns 18 years-old.
Becoming an Adult
In Missouri, a child who reaches the age of 18 years-old is presumed to be an adult. The law does not take into consideration the new adult’s physical or mental capabilities. Absent a determination of incapacity, a person who turns 18 years-old is free to make decisions and be responsible for his/her own life. A person with substantial disabilities, however, may be unable to manage his/her own affairs. It is important for someone to have this legal authority to care for those who cannot care for themselves, especially the child’s disability requires frequent or extensive medical care.
Selecting a Guardian
The responsibility of caring for a disabled adult often falls on the parents or other family members. We recommend planning for the care of your disabled child’s needs before he/she reaches adulthood. We have many clients who are the parents of disabled children that are eager to begin the guardianship proceedings in order to minimize any potential lag time between the child’s 18th birthday and the guardianship hearing.
In order to be granted this decision-making authority, you must file for guardianship of the incapacitated minor child who is becoming an adult. This petition is filed in the probate division of the circuit court. It is crucial to consult with an experienced family law attorney in order to prepare for the guardianship proceedings.
You can petition the court to appoint more than one guardian of the adult, and in some circumstances, the judge will appoint more than one guardian. When a judge appoints two guardians, they are referred to as co-guardians. Co-guardians must work together to make decisions that are in the best interest of the incapacitated adult.
If you and your child’s other parent are divorced and are currently both caring for your child, you need to decide if seeking co-guardianship is in your child’s best interest. If co-parenting has been a chore since the divorce, you may not be eager to consent to acting as co-guardians of your child and may prefer to petition the Court to appoint you as your child’s sole legal guardian.
Termination of Guardianship
If your child is incapacitated at age 18 but later becomes physically or mentally capable for caring for him/herself, you can ask the Court to terminate the guardianship so that your child can be his/her own legal caretaker.