PROBATE COURT – PART 4: Guardians
A Guardian is an adult appointed to oversee the affairs of a minor which is defined as one who is under the age of 18 years. There are three primary types of guardianships in Connecticut, guardian of the person, guardian of the estate and guardian ad litem. Pursuant to C.G.S. 45a-606, “The father and mother of every minor child are joint guardians of the person of the minor, and the powers, rights and duties of the father and the mother in regard to the minor shall be equal. If either father or mother dies or is removed as guardian, the other parent of the minor child shall become the sole guardian of the person of the minor.” If a minor should lose both his/her parents, or if the parents’ rights are temporarily or permanently removed, the court will appoint a guardian for the minor child. The guardian would have “…(A) The obligation of care and control; (B) the authority to make major decisions affecting the minor’s education and welfare, including, but not limited to, consent determinations regarding marriage, enlistment in the armed forces and major medical, psychiatric or surgical treatment; and (C) upon the death of the minor, the authority to make decisions concerning funeral arrangements and the disposition of the body of the minor;” (C.G.S. 45a-604(5)).
A guardian of the estate is an adult appointed to oversee the assets of a minor. Unlike a guardian of the person, a parent has some authority as a guardian of the estate, but if any assets are to be acquired by the minor through a lawsuit or through an inheritance in which the decedent did not provide for control of the asset during the minor’s minority, then the Probate Court will appoint someone, usually a parent, as the guardian of the estate and restrictions are placed upon the use of those assets such that the guardian may not access them without prior Probate Court permission.
A third type of guardianship is a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is translated as “a guardian for litigation only”. Any court, not just the Probate Court, can appoint a guardian ad litem if the court feels the minor(s) need someone to represent their best interests in the litigation. This type of guardianship is commonly used in divorces and in criminal court if a minor commits a criminal offense and needs to appear in court. In a divorce situation, usually an attorney will be appointed rather than a parent because the parents may be fighting over the children. In a criminal matter involving a minor, the parent is usually appointed as the guardian ad litem.