A guardianship is the appointment by a court of an individual or entity to provide care and to make personal decisions for a minor or an incapacitated adult; a guardian is appointed by the judge to make decisions for an adult who, because of mental or physical illness or disability or alcohol or drug abuse, can’t make those decisions. The law calls this individual an “incapacitated person.” An incapacitated adult for whom a Guardian has been appointed is referred to by law as a “ward.” The decisions a guardian makes concern arrangements for the adult ward’s housing, education, medical care, food, clothing, and social activities. Similar decisions will be made by a minor’s guardian.
Guardianship is always a court proceeding; an individual can nominate someone to serve as guardian, but only the court can create the actual guardianship. Arizona guardianship proceedings for adults are conducted in the Superior Courts in each county, and more specifically in the Probate division of each Superior Court. The actual petition for appointment of a guardian must be filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court. A guardianship of a minor must be initiated in Juvenile Court; sometimes these proceedings are associated with a “dependency” action, but not always.
In addition to guardianship, there are other ways to establish authority and gain custody over a child that is not yours. One option is “Non-Parent Custody” (also known as In Loco Parentis custody). The differences between In Loco Parentis and guardianship are great and require a thorough analysis of each person’s individual situation.