Making Plans for the Future Care of Your Children
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It is difficult for most parents to think about not being able to take care of or make decisions for their children. While it is important for all parents to consider this possibility, it can be even more important -- and scary -- for parents who are living with HIV (HIV+). If you plan ahead and make arrangements while you are healthy, you will have less to worry about if you become sick. Also, knowing that your children will be well cared for if anything happens to you can be very reassuring to both you and your children.
With proper planning, you can make sure that your children will have good care in the event that you become too ill to provide for them. Planning ahead can not only give you peace of mind, but also allow you to make choices that reflect your values and what you would like for your child.
Arrangements for the future care of children require formal legal procedures. These legal procedures vary from state to state, so it is important that you consult the legal department at a local AIDS service organization or a private attorney who knows your state's laws. You may also be able to get valuable information and assistance in planning for the future care of your children from a local social worker. Sometimes there are low-cost or no-cost ('pro bono') legal services available in your area. For help finding these, check out the websites for Pro Bono Net and LawHelp.
The most common ways of making plans for the future care of children are described below.
Guardianship is a legal arrangement that allows you to select someone else to care for your children in case you become unable to do so. The legal guardian has the right to act as the children's parent and can make important decisions for the children, including decisions about health care, education, and housing.
There are different types of legal guardianships. Full guardians are responsible for both the personal and financial care of the children. Limited guardians are 'limited' to being responsible for either the personal aspects of the children's care (nurturing and physically caring for the children) or the financial aspects of their care (handling the monetary needs of the children).
Selecting a guardian for your children can be a challenging but rewarding process. It is important to do it when you are well, since in an emergency, the state's court system steps in to select a guardian and may choose someone without your input. Here are some questions to help think about whom to select as a guardian for your children:
You may also want to consider if you feel comfortable talking to the guardian about your health, what your children think of the guardian, and if the guardian shares your values and has similar ideas about raising children.
Making someone a legal guardian of your children requires a court hearing. At the hearing, you will need to explain to the judge why you want someone else to take care of your children. The person you want to name the guardian is called the designated guardian.
The designated guardian must also appear in court and demonstrate that he or she is a person over 18 years old and has never had a felony conviction. The court will investigate the designated guardian to see if he or she is qualified to provide care for the children. The court will legally recognize the guardian of your children once the court is convinced that the guardian you selected is qualified and that having a guardian is in the best interest of the children.
In making these arrangements, you must understand that both parents may have parental rights to care for the children, even if one parent has never been involved in the children's life. If you believe that your children's other parent would not provide good care for them, you obtain a court hearing to testify why your selected guardian would be a better caregiver than the other parent. The court can make the legal decision, based on the evidence, as to which person would make a better guardian.
The guardianship arrangements you make now do not have to be permanent. You can make changes in the future if you decide you would like different arrangements for your children.
This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
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