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Godmom

what is the difference between custody and legal guardianship

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I have two children.  The birth mother of both children died in 2014.  The children have different fathers.  

Prior to their Mom's death, I had joint custody with their Mom of one of the children, a boy, whose father attended the first of the joint custody hearings, but asked the judge to let him stay out of it as  he did not want to be involved in the boy's life, so I was able to get joint custody.   When the mother died, the father petitioned for custody of the child.  He withdrew his petition for custody the day of the first hearing via his lawyer and did not attend the hearing.  The judge dismissed his case and made no further ruling.  The child has been in my care ever since.  

Regarding the girl, after the death of the mother, I petitioned the court for sole custody of her, as did the birth father.  I prevailed and was awarded sole custody of the girl.

For college, I know that the schools look at the finances of both the parents and children if the child is in a custodial situation, however, the schools only look at the finances of the children if the child is in a guardianship situation.  This will make a huge difference in the amount of financial aid the children will be eligible for when they apply to college in a few years.  They are both in elementary school, so I have time to start saving, but I would like to be prepared so that we can afford the best schools possible when the time comes. 

I am uncertain if what I have is considered legal guardianship.  How do I find out?  The custody paper for the boy are the old ones from 2014 stating joint custody with the mother.  The papers for the girl only refer to custody.  Nothing is said about legal guardianship regarding either child.  Does anyone, know how I proceed?  

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1 hour ago, Godmom said:

I have two children.  The birth mother of both children died in 2014.  The children have different fathers.

 

Please clarify what you mean when you say you "have two children" in light of your statement that you are not the "birth mother" or the father of either child.  Also, and while it might not be relevant, I'm curious why two different courts would award custody to a person who is neither the mother or father of either child -- and, in one case, where the father was actively seeking custody.

 

 

1 hour ago, Godmom said:

For college, I know that the schools look at the finances of both the parents and children if the child is in a custodial situation, however, the schools only look at the finances of the children if the child is in a guardianship situation.

 

Not really sure what you mean by this or where you got this information.

 

 

1 hour ago, Godmom said:

I am uncertain if what I have is considered legal guardianship.  How do I find out?

 

Well...in the first half of your post, you were quite unequivocal that you have custody, so I find it odd that you now seem to be uncertain.  In any event, the way to find out is to read the orders of the court.

 

 

1 hour ago, Godmom said:

The custody paper for the boy are the old ones from 2014 stating joint custody with the mother.  The papers for the girl only refer to custody.  Nothing is said about legal guardianship regarding either child.

 

All of which makes your question rather odd.

 

 

1 hour ago, Godmom said:

Does anyone, know how I proceed?

 

Since your question appears to be in anticipation of college financial aid application, it might not be the worst idea in the world to contact the financial aid office at a local college and see if you can make an appointment to come in and talk with someone about this situation.

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Hi @Godmom

 

Welcome to the community and thanks for posting! If you are not the biological parent of either child, you will likely will need to establish a permanent guardianship, rather than simply custodial/visitation rights. You may want to speak with a local family law attorney who handles guardianship. For a free consultation, click here.

 

Best of luck!

The FindLaw.com Team

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" I have two children"  I am not the mother of either child.  She  and the children lived with me since Jan 2013.  I sought joint custody of both children at that time in order to take care of their medical and school needs, as their mother's health precluded her from taking care of the kids or going to most of their appointments.  I received joint custody of the boy- his biological father told the judge he did not want to be involved in his son's life and he did not show up for any subsequent court dates or want to meet his son.  For the girl- the biological father and his wife objected to me having joint custody but they would not take her to doctor's appointments themselves.  The children's mother got married during this time and her husband moved in, so I dropped the case, as the children's doctors and school would accept the signature of the step-father for appointments and he was willing to take her.   The children's mother died in Dec 2014.  The fathers of both children and the step-father applied for custody, as did the children's other godmother.  I applied for custody of both children a month or so later.  My reasons are-  the other Godmother lives in a retirement building in a studio with no bedrooms. She needs at least 2 and I have 5.  Her health is poor.  The step-father is disabled and would not be able to care for the kids by himself.   The bio father of the boy, finally met the boy, but had nothing nice to say about him over the course of the 4 visits he had in the space of a month.  In my presence he called the boy many horrible names, and put a negative spin on everything the boy did and said.  He stated that his other son- who lived in the house did not like the boy either.   The January visit resulted in me taking the boy to the emergency room.  CPS investigated and the father was indicated.  This was the 5th time he was indicated in a CPS report regarding his children.  The father of the boy dropped his attempt to gain custody when the CPS worker and the CPS lawyer showed up at court to testify before the judge.  He refused to enter the courtroom when the case was called and he left the courthouse.  His case was dismissed , which left the old order of joint custody with the mother standing.  The biological father has since refused all contact.  The step-father moved out and the other Godmother dropped her case for custody.  That is why I have custody of the boy. 

  Regarding the girl- her biological father has many previous convictions, some involving children in his crimes.  During the custody battle, which lasted from Jan to Oct.  he moved no fewer than 8 times to more than 4 different school districts.  He was homeless on a couple of occasions. At no time did he hold a job.  He abandoned the custody battle  and moved back in with his wife and another daughter and they moved to Georgia and notified the judge that he was starting a new life and would not be back.  My lawyer asked to be allowed to finish presenting witnesses before custody was awarded- CPS and the girl's therapist were among the witnesses.  Two weeks later he abandoned his wife and daughter in Georgia and came back and was allowed to present his witnesses.  His primary witness was the mother of two more of his children.  My lawyer pointed out the less than a month earlier, this woman had filed in court for custody of the girl as well and declared the father to be unfit- details as to why she considered him unfit were given in the documents she had filed with the court.  His lawyer presented no other witnesses.  He failed to show for any of the depositions, some of the court dates and over 90% of his scheduled visits with the girl. He would go for 5-6 months at a time without any contact.   He admitted that he never gave her a present for her birthday, for Christmas or any other occasion in her 6 years.  He never attended any school function, sport event or doctor appointment.  He did not call to talk to her or ask about her, know her age or birthday and had no plan regarding where he and she would live,  or how she would get to her doctors. She is a special needs child.  He was not involved in the care of any of his other 4-5 children and did not pay support for any of them. The judge found a case for extraordinary circumstance.  That is why I have custody of the girl.

  Both kids live with me full time and I am solely responsible for their care.  I know I have custody of them, but I wasn't sure I had guardianship of them. 

 

Regarding the information on what colleges look at for financial aid- I got that information from a seminar given by Family Enrichment Network, Cherry St,  Johnson City.

 

Thank you for the idea of going to a local college to get an appointment at the financial aid office.  That was very helpful to me and gave me all the information I need to proceed!  There is significant difference between custody papers and guardianship papers. Before the kids go to college, I will need to go back to court and have very specific wording included in the court order so the college will look solely at the childrens'  finances and they will be eligible for much larger amounts of financial aid.

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