Many parents of special needs children, including those with Autism, are shocked to find out, when their child turns 18, that they do not have the authority to act on their behalf anymore. Although many school districts are getting better at educating parents, it can still come as a surprise that the parent does not have the right to participate in their autistic child’s IEP at school, or speak with the Doctor and get medical information about the their child, unless the child is able to consent to this. Many autistic children do not have the ability to consent or even understand what this means. Additionally, these children are in danger of being taken advantage of if the wrong person comes along. So parents have to have the tools to continue being able to act on their child’s behalf.
What are the steps that a parent with an autistic child must take in order to continue acting on their child’s behalf? Guardian advocacy is a court proceeding that allows a parent to file a Petition with the court and tell the court the issues their child has, and why the parent must continue being able to make decisions for the autistic child. Essentially, the court gives the authority back to the parents to make educational, medical, housing and financial decisions for the autistic child. This proceeding requires that an attorney be appointed on behalf of the child to make sure that the guardianship is in the best interest of the child. Along with the petition, the parent must also file something that shows the diagnosis of the child (an IEP report, a medical report from the child’s doctor, etc.). Guardian advocacy can only be used if the child has been diagnosed with an intellectual disability, autism, spina bifida, Prader-Willi Syndrome or cerebral palsy.
The parent does not need an attorney to represent them, if they child does not have any assets and the parent is only seeking guardianship over the person (to decide where they live, education decisions, etc.). If the child has a disability which was due to some sort of medical malpractice that caused the child to have a personal injury settlement, then an attorney will need to be involved in the guardianship.
If you would like more information about how to file for guardian advocacy on behalf of your autistic child, you can check out the following Florida Circuit Court websites:
In Hillsborough County (13th Judicial Circuit):
In Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties (14th Judicial Circuit):
In Brevard and Seminole Counties (18th Judicial Circuit): http://www.flcourts18.org/page.php?130
Orange and Osceola County (9th Judicial Circuit): http://www.ninthcircuit.org/research/court-forms/probate-guardian-advocate
These are samples of what the forms should look like, checklists, and information about the entire guardian advocacy process.
Would you like additional guidance from a knowledgable attorney? Schedule a complimentary phone consultation with Attorney Laurie Ohall by calling 813.438.8503 or online.