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  • Writer's pictureLauren A. Merritt, P.A.

When Can I Become the Guardian Advocate for My Special Needs Child?

Sometimes children with special needs or developmental disabilities need legal guardians throughout their adulthood. When is it time to ask the court to appoint a guardian advocate?

What is a Guardian Advocate?

In Florida, a Guardian Advocacy proceeding is a summary guardianship process for family members, caregivers, or friends of individuals with a developmental disability that gives the guardian legal authority to act on the individual's behalf if the individual lacks the decision-making ability to do some, but not all, of the decision-making tasks necessary to care for his or her person or property. The Guardian Advocate is the parent or other caregiver appointed by the court to help the person with the developmental disability make decisions concerning his or her care and well-being.

When Can You Ask to Be Appointed Guardian Advocate?

The special needs child’s parents are his or her natural guardians until the child turns 18. No Guardian Advocate needs to be appointed during most of the child’s childhood.

A parent or other qualifying caregiver can petition to appoint a Guardian Advocate any time after the special needs child is 17 years and 6 months old. In other words, the petition can be filed six months before the child’s 18th birthday. This allows enough time to make sure the Guardian Advocate is appointed before the child reaches the age of majority and becomes a legal adult.

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