Skip to Content

Child Guardianship Information for Parents

  • Legal guardian: someone approved of or chosen by a judge to make legal decisions for a child when the child’s parents aren’t available.  
  • Ward or protected person: a child who has a legal guardian.  
  • Legal parent: a person who the government recognizes as a legal parent. Parents don’t have to go through a court case to be a legal parent. Many parents are automatically the legal parents to their children:  
    • Married parents: are automatically the legal parent to any child born during their marriage or within 300 days after they get divorced, even if the child isn’t biologically theirs.   
    • Unmarried mothers: are automatically a legal parent to any child they give birth to (unless they’re a surrogate).  
    • Unmarried fathers: are legal parents if their name is on their child’s birth certificate, they sign an official form saying they are the father, or if they have a court or agency order that says they’re the legal father. 
  • Caregiver: on this page, we use the word caregiver to describe anyone who is not a child's legal parent who helps a parent care for their child. A caregiver could be a childcare provider, stepparent, grandparent, other relative, friend, or roommate.  
  • Service: the proper way to notify someone about a court case. The person who starts the court case must notify the other person involved in the case before the case can continue. The most common way to serve someone is to have another adult (who is not part of the case) hand them court papers. If that can’t happen, there are rules for other methods of serving someone. 

Your child may need a legal guardian if you or your child’s other parent are unable to care for your child long-term.

Any responsible adult who is willing and able to care for the child.

A court-appointed legal guardian has most of the same rights as a legal parent. For example, the guardian can:  

  • Give the child permission to get married or be adopted; 
  • Handle the child’s basic finances;  
  • Take care of the child’s daily needs and medical care; and 
  • Decide what school the child attends.

Yes. Some options require you to go to court and some do not.

Options where you don’t have to go to court:  

  • Delegation of Parental Powers: a parent can use the "Delegation of Parental Powers" form to give a caregiver temporary permission to care for their child and make important decisions. The form requires the signature of at least one legal parent and the caregiver. For more information on this option, go here.  
  • Relative Caregiver Affidavit: if someone is caring for a relative’s child and they can’t find the parents to get their written permission, they can use the "Relative Caregiver Affidavit" form for one year to make decisions for the child. For more information on this option, go here. 

Options that require going to court:  

  • Legal custody: a stepparent, grandparent, other relative, or foster parent can also ask the court for custody of a minor child. Talk to a lawyer for more information about this option.   
  • Adoption: a caregiver can also legally adopt a child. Adoption is the legal process for replacing a child’s legal parent with a new legal parent. Talk to a lawyer for more information about this option.

You may have other legal options as well, depending on your family situation. It’s always a good idea to talk to a lawyer so you can get a plan for your situation. You can find a lawyer using our Referral Database.    

This is a personal decision.  

But if you do agree to let someone become your child’s legal guardian, it is hard to undo this choice. You can lose the ability to parent your child again in the future.  

There are other, less permanent options than legal guardianship. You can go to this page for more information on your other options. 

Read the papers carefully. You must tell the court if you disagree with:  

  • Your child having a legal guardian; or 
  • Who should be your child’s legal guardian. 

Some courts have forms that you can use to say that you disagree with the guardianship. If you can’t find court forms, talk to the court staff and ask them how to tell the court you disagree.  

If you still can’t find forms, you can try using forms from another county in Oregon. You can find these forms online by searching on Google, Bing, or another search site. Try using this search terms, “Oregon Courts guardianship objection forms.”

The most important thing is to turn something into the court in writing that tells the court you disagree! 

The court papers will tell you the deadline to disagree. You usually only have a few weeks.  

If you miss the deadline for a very good reason, talk to a lawyer. You may have options. 

Yes. The court will schedule a hearing if either parent disagrees with your child having a legal guardian. A hearing is a court date where you, the potential guardian, and the other parent get to talk to a judge and show evidence. The hearing can be in person at the courthouse or by phone or video.  

At the hearing, you can testify and tell the judge: 

  • Why you don’t think your child needs a guardian; or  
  • If you have concerns about the person trying to become the guardian.  

You can also bring witnesses and other evidence to court to give the judge more information about why your child doesn’t need a guardian or your concerns about the person trying to become the guardian.

No. At the court hearing, the judge must assume that you're doing what’s best for your child. The person trying to become your child’s guardian must convince a judge that you are not acting in your child’s best interests.

Talk to a lawyer. You may be able to undo the legal guardianship if the legal guardian did not properly notify you that they started a guardianship court case involving your child. 

Not sure this is the information you need?

We can help you find the right information.

Do you want to find a lawyer?

Search for lawyers and organizations that provide free and low-cost legal help.