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Guardianship of children

When guardianship ends

When and how does guardianship end?

Care of Children Act 2004, s 28

Guardianship ends when the child:

  • turns 18, or
  • gets married, enters into a civil union, or lives with someone as a de facto partner (if the child is 16 or 17, they need written permission from their guardian).

Guardianship also ends if a guardian is removed by the court or if the guardian was appointed for a specific period or purpose and the period ends or the purpose is achieved.

Note: Guardianship has been described as a “dwindling right”. This means that even though guardianship may not have legally come to an end, as a child gets older and gains in maturity and understanding, their views become more important and the rights of a guardian to make decisions for the child decrease.

Removal of guardians by the courts

When can a parent be removed as a guardian?

Care of Children Act 2004, s 29

The Family Court can remove a guardian if it is satisfied that:

  • for some very serious reason the person is unfit to be a guardian, or
  • the person is unwilling to be a guardian, and
  • the removal will be in the welfare and best interests of the child.

In practice, this means that there will have to be a very serious reason before a parent is removed as guardian.

Removing a testamentary, court-appointed, or additional guardian

In the case of removal of a testamentary guardian, court-appointed guardian, or new spouse or partner appointed as an additional guardian, the only question is whether the order for removal will serve the welfare and best interests of the child.

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