If you are in the position of making decisions for a minor with special needs, you may wonder who besides you can make these often-difficult decisions. Generally, parents are the only ones who can decide things for their children. If a child has a guardian in lieu of a parent, the guardian takes the place of the parent in decision-making. Knowing exactly who can and cannot decide for your child is very important for medical emergencies and other urgent situations.
Who qualifies as a child’s parent? The law regards only those with “parentage” as being parents for legal decision-making purposes. Birth mothers establish parentage by giving birth. In Illinois, fathers or other parents must legally establish parentage: by marriage to the mother at the time of birth, listing on the birth certificate, court order, acknowledgement of paternity, or other agency orders. People also can sign denial of parentage forms.
In case of remarriage, divorce, or adoption, the law provides that new spouses may assume parental rights over a child if they follow particular procedures (it does not happen automatically). If your family is blended or you have a complicated family situation, make sure that you know exactly who is considered a “parent” so that if your child with special needs has a medical emergency, you know who can talk to the doctors and consent to treatment. Some medical or government authorities will not share any information about a child with a person who is not a legal parent or guardian.
Under some circumstances, a child with special needs may have a guardian who makes decisions for him instead of legal parents. Minor guardianships differ from adult guardianships in the reasons and process used to seek them, but they generally have the same effect: a guardian can make decisions for the person under the guardianship. If a child is under the control of a parent or the parent is making decisions for the child, usually a guardianship will not be appropriate. You should seek out a family law attorney if you think a minor guardianship may be appropriate for a child with special needs.
Parents and guardians make many decisions for their children with special needs until the children turn 18 and often beyond that age. While children are under 18, parents decide which medical care to seek for their children, where they live, which schools and programs they attend, what they eat, and much more. Parent of children with special needs in particular must make decisions about programs, medical treatments, physical therapy, financial support, and other crucial items for their children. Understanding who can make these decisions is the first step in making them.
Rubin Law is the only law firm in Illinois exclusively limited to providing compassionate special needs legal and future planning to guide our fellow Illinois families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, or mental illness down the road to peace of mind. For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-TO-RUBIN.