Guardianship vs. Guardian Advocacy

If you are a parent of a child that has special needs or a developmental disability, you may have heard the terms “Guardianship” or “Guardian Advocacy”. Although, the terms “Guardianship” and “Guardian Advocacy” sound similar the two terms encompass two different processes.

In a guardianship proceeding the court declares that the person or Ward is incapacitated. Under  §744.102(12), Florida Statutes an  ““Incapacitated person” means a person who has been judicially determined to lack the capacity to manage at least some of the property or to meet at least some of the essential health and safety requirements of the person.”  This action is often necessary when someone has not prepared Advanced Directives and they exhibit an inability to care for their person or property.

For parents or family members of persons with developmental disabilities there is another option: Guardian Advocacy.  Florida Statute §393.063 (9) defines developmental disability:  “Developmental disability” means a disorder or syndrome that is attributable to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, or Prader-Willi syndrome; that manifests before the age of 18; and that constitutes a substantial handicap that can reasonably be expected to continue indefinitely.” Guardian Advocacy petitions are appropriate where the developmentally disabled person lacks some but not all decision making abilities and there is a need for another person to assist with medical care choices and or property management.

Consulting with an attorney knowledgeable about guardianship law in Florida will help you identify whether some form of guardianship is appropriate to your particular situation and if so which form would be most suitable.