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Understanding The Scope Of, And Pathway To, Guardianship Advocacy

Parents of children with developmental disabilities may realize that a legal shift will happen once those children come of age. And in fact, an 18-year-old person with a developmental disability is legally presumed to have decision-making capacities until determined otherwise through a court order.

A parent or another adult who has served as a guardian for a minor with disabilities may consider the need for guardianship for that young person after he or she reaches adulthood, as appropriate. However, many young adults (and older ones) with developmental disabilities are not easily labeled as having capacity or incapacity. Rather, they fall within a spectrum or range of capacity. They may be able to make some decisions for themselves but not others.

Capacity As Defined By Decision Making

Under Florida Statute §393.12(2)(a), when a person has a developmental disability, the Court can appoint a loved one to act as that person’s Guardian Advocate in order to have someone who can legally make financial and medical decisions for that developmentally disabled person after they reach the age of 18.

Guardian advocacy is an alternative to full guardianship that can provide protection, clarity and peace of mind for the guardian as well as the ward (the young person with partial decision-making capacity).

Definition Of A Development Disability

Developmental disabilities are defined by Florida statute to include intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome or Prader-Willi syndrome. An 18-year-old with these or other conditions that began before age 18 may possess some self-care capacities but not others.

According to Florida statutes, “courts are encouraged to consider appointing a Guardian Advocate, when appropriate, as a less restrictive form of guardianship.” To be approved as a Guardian Advocate, a parent or whoever is interested in this role must file a petition and application with the court, along with documentation such as individualized educational plans (IEPs), psychological evaluations and medical records. The petition and documentation should indicate, with evidence, the specific areas of decision making that the guardian advocacy should encompass. Schnauss Naugle Law can help you prepare compelling evidence to show to the court.

‘Do I Need A Lawyer?’

Florida statutes indicate that it is not necessary to have a lawyer to apply to be someone’s Guardian Advocate. Most people in this position, however, soon realize the value of a knowledgeable lawyer as an ally and helper who can clearly explain and facilitate the process. Attorney Katherine Schnauss Naugle has extensive experience in this area. Schnauss Naugle Law has served many families in need of guardianship or guardian advocacy approval. To schedule a consultation, call (904) 643-6342 or send an emailed request through this website.