Legal Guardianship of an Infant in Kansas

by Anna Assad
Natural parents are a child's guardians by law.

Natural parents are a child's guardians by law.

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The legal guardian of an infant in Kansas takes care of the infant and assumes responsibility for her as a parent would. Any person may file a guardianship petition in the district court of the county the child lives in. Petitioners may include relatives of the child and other caretakers, such as the child's doctor, involved in the child's life, as well as county and state welfare agencies. The district court reviews the case and holds legal proceedings to decide whether the infant needs a guardian. Once a legal guardian is appointed for the infant, he has various duties and some authority limitations under Kansas law.

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Natural Guardians

An infant's biological or adoptive parents are her "natural" guardians under Kansas laws, responsible for her care and property. If one of the parents loses his parental rights, dies or needs a guardian himself--for example, if he's mentally incompetent--the other parent becomes the sole natural guardian. If both parents die, lose their parental rights or are unable to take care of themselves, the infant has no natural guardians, and the court must appoint a legal guardian. Because an infant is under 14, she can't pick a guardian. If there are no capable natural guardians, a close relative of the child receives top priority as a possible guardian. The choice of the person petitioning the court to have a guardian appointed for the child is considered next.

Guardian Requirements and Powers

The court evaluates the infant's proposed guardian when a petition for guardianship is filed. Kansas laws require the court to study the guardian's current workload and obligations, and the court may examine his background, including his criminal history. Once appointed, the guardian must account to the court for his actions as required by the judge. An infant's guardian is required to take care of and protect her. He must take care of her personal needs, such as food and clothing, and medical needs. If she dies, he is responsible for making her funeral arrangements. In Kansas, a guardian doesn't manage an infant's property if the property exceeds $10,000 in value or the court finds the infant's assets must be managed separately; the court appoints a conservator to handle the infant's property. The court may appoint the same person, however, as both guardian and conservator of an infant.

Restrictions

Kansas law restricts an infant's guardian in medical and adoption matters, unless the guardian has received special authority from the court in these specific matters. A guardian can't consent to any experimental treatments for the infant unless the treatment has been evaluated by a licensed review board or the board of the place the procedure will be performed at. Guardians may not withhold or withdraw lifesaving medical care or give consent to a surgery that would remove an infant's body part or organ without a court order. However, if the surgery is needed to save the infant's life in an emergency, the guardian may give consent. A guardian can't consent to the legal adoption of the infant.

Termination

The guardian's authority ends if the child dies or turns 18, unless the person, as an adult, still needs a guardian because of an impairment. If the ward is awarded his rights in court and viewed as an adult before the age of 18--by gaining legal emancipation, for example--the guardianship ends. A guardian's authority may end for other reasons as determined by the court. For example, if the guardian is found to be unfit, another guardian is appointed.