What Guardianship Means in Colorado: The Is and Is Not

One of the most misunderstood terms in Colorado Family Court is probably guardianship, and some is due to the definite difference laid out by Colorado statute. Guardianship is a petition agreed to and signed by the court for a concerned party (usually individual, but can be a couple, such as grandparents) to ask the court to grant custody of someone, usually minors but can be an adult, for their safety and well being. This is different than conservator (think trustee) status in Colorado, which means that a party takes over financial responsibilities in handling the affairs of a person (the “ward”), be they adult or minor.

Colorado is very conservative when it comes to guardianship and assumes all are “limited’, in other words, you can only take care of what the “ward” absolutely cannot for themselves. Full guardianship is rare in CO and requires convincing the court precisely why you should handle, do, and make all decisions for the ward. All cases require multiple steps, many forms, and legally binding documents in Colorado, including reports back to the court.  It is truly one area you need a Family Law attorney to handle to make sure everything is done timely and correctly.

Sometimes guardianship is a result of probate proceedings, or may be requested by a family member over a minor child for the safety and welfare of that minor. This may occur due to parental inability to care for the child due to health, mental issues, incarceration, addiction problems, abandonment, or other factors. A petition must be given the court with verifiable documentation showing the who-what-where-when-why the petition is being requested. Guardianship being granted, in particular for children, does not suspend the parental responsibility to the child, but does suspend the custody of that child.

If the party the guardianship request is being made for has emotional or health concerns, especially if elderly or disabled, the court will require an application, and a psychological and/or medical evaluation. These are then presented during a court hearing. It is highly advisable to have an attorney present who is familiar with the statutes in Colorado, and what “rights” or lack thereof come with the guardianship. If the guardian wants to reverse the responsibility, it, too, is a court hearing process.

Guardianship is never to be taken lightly, as the guardian becomes responsible to the court for their taking charge of the person, be it a minor or adult needing the care.  It is always best to check with a knowledgeable Colorado Family Law attorney. Patricia Perello in Colorado Springs has a lot of experience in these kind of matters and her first consult is free.