A full guardian of a minor has the same powers and responsibilities toward a child as does a custodial parent except that the guardian is not obligated to support the child with personal funds and is not liable to third parties for the acts of the minor. (MCL 700.5215)
Any person interested in the welfare of a minor, or the minor himself/herself if 14 years old or older, may petition the court for the appointment of a full guardian for a minor. (MCL 700.5204) File a case using the form Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor (PC 651). There is a $150 filing fee that must be paid when the petition is filed. The Probate Court accepts payment by cash, check or money order. The Probate Court does not accept payment by credit or debit card.
The petitioner must give notice of the time and place of the hearing on the guardianship petition to the minor if 14 years of age or older, the person who had the principal care and custody of the minor during the 63 days preceding the date of the petition and each living parent of the minor or, if neither of them is living, the adult nearest of kin to the minor. MCL700.5213.
If the court determines that the minor’s interests are or may be inadequately represented the court may appoint a lawyer guardian ad litem to represent the best interest of the minor.
Once the petition is filed with the court, along with the filing fee, and the interested parties have been served with the petition, the court holds a hearing. At the hearing the court may deny the petition so that no guardian is appointed, appoint a temporary guardian and adjourn or continue the hearing to get more information, or grant the petition and appoint a full guardian.
The court may appoint a guardian for an unmarried minor if any of the following circumstances exist:
The court has great discretion in deciding whom to appoint to be the guardian of a minor. It must be someone whose appointment would serve the minor’s welfare. If the minor is 14 years of age or older the court must appoint the person nominated by the minor unless doing so would be contrary to the minor’s welfare.
If the court appoints a person or persons to be the full guardian of a minor the judge will sign Letters of Guardianship (PC 633) and Order Regarding Appointment of Guardian (PC 653). In Washtenaw County, the Letters and the Order are signed at the conclusion of the hearing. Then the file is brought by court staff from the courtroom to the probate court office where a certified copy of the Letters is made and given to the guardian. The guardian signs the Acceptance of Appointment (PC 571) and the Confidential Information Sheet. The Guardian also signs up to attend a mandatory training session regarding the responsibilities that the guardian has to the court and to the minor ward.
Every year that the guardianship continues, the guardian must file with the court the Annual Report of Guardian on Condition of Minor (PC 654) which updates the court on the condition of the minor ward. This form must be filed each year on the anniversary date of the issuance of the Letters of Guardianship. The completed form must be served on the ward and all interested persons.
The court may review a minor guardianship whenever necessary, but it must annually review the guardianship of a minor ward under six years of age on the anniversary of the issuance of the Letters of Guardianship. In Washtenaw County this review is accomplished by an investigator meeting face to face with the minor ward and observing the minor ward’s environment. The investigator prepares a report which is filed with the court. The court reviews the report and may take further action as needed.
A guardian’s authority automatically terminates when the minor dies, is adopted, gets married or turns 18. Similarly, the guardian’s authority terminates on the death of the guardian, the guardian’s resignation or removal by the court. Anyone interested in a ward’s welfare, or the ward themselves if they are 14 years of age or older, may file a petition with the court to have the guardian removed. But only the parent or parents of the minor can petition the court to terminate the guardianship. The petitioner does this by filing a Petition to Terminate or Modify Guardianship (PC 638) along with a $20 motion fee with the court.
The court may remove the guardian based on a petition if it would serve the minor’s welfare to do so. If a petition for termination is filed, the court may appoint a lawyer-guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the minor. After the petitioner has provided notice to the interested parties the court holds a hearing on the petition and enters an appropriate order which could include directing a court employee or a Department of Human Services employee to conduct an investigation, use other community resources to investigate the situation, appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the minor, terminate, modify or continue the guardianship.
If the full guardianship is terminated by the court, the court may enter orders regarding the reintegration of the minor into the home of the parent or parents and this return must occur within 6 months. If the court does not terminate the guardianship it may continue the guardianship however, it cannot last more than one year. Before the year is up the court may hold a review hearing and could continue the guardianship if the actions of the parent or parents have resulted in a substantial disruption of the parent child relationship and the continuation is in the best interest of the minor child. The court may appoint an attorney to represent the minor or refer the matter to the Department of Human Services.
Washtenaw County Probate Court: Full Guardianship