We receive many questions on a weekly basis about different issues facing parents of disabled adult children. One common question is about filing for guardianship over the disabled child after they have turned age 18. Did you know that after a child turns 18, parents lose their rights to speak for that child and to make financial and health care decisions? This can be especially hard if the child is disabled.
In Florida, if a child has a developmental disability that started before the age of 18, the court can appoint what is known as a “guardian advocate” to help a person who lacks the decision-making ability to manage their personal care or finances. In order to file for guardian advocacy, the child must be over the age of 18 with a developmental disability which includes a disorder or syndrome attributable to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, Prader-Willi syndrome, Down syndrome, or Phelan-McDermid syndrome. (See Florida Statute, Section 393.063 (12)).
Usually, it is a parent that files the Petition requesting to be named the guardian advocate. Florida Statute, Section 393.12 even allows a person to do this without being represented by an attorney in most instances. The court requires an attorney if the guardian advocate is trying to be guardian over the person’s property (other than the right to be representative payee of government benefits), if the disabled adult child has real estate, a personal injury settlement, or any other assets/income other than the receipt of SSI or SSDI. In these instances, the court will require that the guardian advocate be represented by an attorney in order to file the Petition.
If you are interested in representing yourself as guardian advocate, there are resources available to help you file the required paperwork. Typically, these links and downloadable aids are available on our website and on multiple county’s Clerk of Court websites; however, these forms are currently being updated and will be available for download soon.
If you are in dire need of forms or direction on where or how to begin, contact our office at at (813) 438-8503 or use the form to email us. Please bear in mind that the materials are specific to each county and the Courts may vary on the wording of the forms, requirement of criminal background checks, and the types of forms needed to be filed. So, when contacting us, please let us know which Florida city and county you live in to ensure we provide you with the most accurate information and documents.
Please note, the Clerk of Court cannot give legal advice, including how to fill out or file Guardian Advocate forms; to do so would be considered the unauthorized practice of law. Also, attorneys get paid for their knowledge and understanding of how the system works and they do charge for their assistance in filling out or filing of Guardian Advocate forms. If you are not sure how to handle this or what to file, you may want to consider hiring an attorney to help you.