A legal guardian is a person who is legally responsible for the care and well-being of a ward: a minor or an adult who cannot provide adequate self-care. A guardian may be appointed by the court (perhaps after being specifically named within an estate planning document) if the parents are deceased or if they are incapable of providing a safe and caring environment for the child. Situations that may lead to the need for guardianship can include mental illness, substance abuse, physical abuse, dementia, exploitation, neglect, etc.
Allowing visitation – supervised or unsupervised – between parents and children can be beneficial and healthy for the ward if the interactions are positive and the parents are making strides toward bettering their lives. However, there are some circumstances where visitation may not be recommended. A guardian does have the power to deny visitation of a minor or incapacitated adult if they feel the interaction could be psychologically, financially or physically harmful to the ward. Here are some reasons why the visitation may be denied:
- The parent/child relationship is toxic, demeaning or strained;
- An element of fear or coercion is present during the interactions;
- Destructive life choices are still being made by the parent;
- The parent’s goal is financial gain;
- There is a history of sexual abuse;
- Abduction of the child is a distinct possibility;
- The child will be exposed to unsafe living conditions; or
- Attending school is not made a priority for the child during the visits.
The guardian does not have absolute power. The courts may order visitation or place restrictions on it if there are challenges by one of the affected parties.
In addition to face-to-face visits, the guardian must also determine if other forms of communication such as FaceTime or Zoom calls, emails, texts or social media accounts are beneficial or detrimental. If these communications put emotional strain on the child, it may be best to limit, oversee or completely halt these communications.
There is no simple, easy answer when it comes to dynamic family situations. Every case is completely unique and will have to be considered from all angles. If you are a guardian and are struggling with this aspect of your duties, the Denver guardianship lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC can help. If necessary, we can seek court intervention – all with the goal of protecting the emotional, physical and financial needs of a minor or incapacitated adult. Contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online to meet with our experts.