Guardianship is a legal process that allows someone (usually a family member) to ask the court to find that a person age 18 or older is unable (incompetent) to manage his/her affairs effectively because of a disability. A guardian steps in the shoes of the person with a disability and makes decisions in the individual’s best interest. Guardianship is a legal matter that has consequences for both parents and offspring which involves the court system.

This decision should not be taken lightly as guardianship can take away many of the person’s rights. On one hand, it puts protections in place so youth can live life more safely, with as much self-determination as possible. On the other hand, it limits civil rights. By its very nature, guardianship is quite restrictive. You are usually stripped of the authority to make decisions that are granted to adults.

Do you have questions about guardianship?

If you have questions about guardianship and the process, watch the training video and review the Guardianship Guidebook (link). Make note of your questions and reach out to the UPC. We would love to help you. In addition, the following resources might be helpful as you proceed in the guardianship process:

OCAP Website (Paperwork you’ll need if you’re not using an attorney)
Utah Courts Self Help Center: (Ask the court questions about the paperwork or your personal situation)
How to serve papers
Additional Resource Handout

Suggestions to Consider

If you feel you need to learn more about future care-taking options for your son or daughter, here are a few suggestions to get started:

  • Learn how Utah defines guardianship. What guardianship options exist, and what are the laws that govern them? What would each mean for you and for your young adult?
  • Determine the best way to provide support to your son or daughter. What is the least restrictive way to provide your young person with the support he/she needs to make decisions?
  • Determine the level of support needed. How much support is needed to make sound decisions and choices? Does he or she need support, for example, in identifying when to make a decision? In exploring options? In coping with the consequences of choices? What types of support does he or she need?
  • Consider the “informal” support your young adult already has (for example, a network of family or friends). Are these enough to support your youth in decision-making, or will more support be needed?

What about Guardianship and Other Options?

There are other options to be considered as well, such as conservatorship or having an educational advocate. Another option is using person-centered planning or supported decision-making to help young adults with disabilities to make decisions. (link to appropriate pages) If these possibilities have crossed your mind, you’ll need to find out more—much more—before taking action.