Minor Guardianship vs. Custody of a Minor

Some might be confused about the difference between minor guardianship and custody of a minor. Let’s examine them both in the eyes of Florida law.


Guardianship can be broken into two parts–one for financial reasons only and one for when parents are no longer available to care for a child.

Minor Guardianship for Financial Reasons

This type of guardianship occurs when a child receives money that totals $15,000 or more. This money can be received from a lawsuit, settlement, inheritance, or similar situation. Florida law states that receiving money in this amount requires that a child needs a guardian to help manage the money. The chosen guardian will be examined to be sure they are trustworthy and able to care for the child’s money in a prudent manner. The guardian can be a family member, friend, attorney, or financial officer.

Minor Guardianship due to Unavailability of the Child’s Parents

The other type of guardianship for a minor occurs when a child’s parents are unavailable to care for them. The parents might not be available due to death, imprisonment, incapacitation, and/or because they were declared unfit. This type of guardianship allows the appointed guardian or guardians to have full custody of a child, just as a child’s parents might. It allows them to make decisions about a child’s residence, medical care, choice of school, etc. Sometimes this type of guardianship coexists with a financial one when certain financial situations exist. The person chosen can be a relative, friend of the family, or an institution such as an orphanage. Any applicant will be screened very carefully to make sure they are a proper fit for the child, even if a will was left that chose a specific person. The court oversees the guardianship until the child reaches the age of 18.

Child Custody

As we’ve seen, child custody exists in guardianship cases that arise when a child’s parents cannot care for them. This agreement can last forever or for a specific period of time.

Another of the most common ways child custody decisions come about is due to divorce or separation of the child’s parents. There are two types of custody, legal and physical. Physical custody determines where the child will actually live. Legal custody determines who can make decisions about a child’s life. Differing child custody agreements determine which parent has which, and all agreements differ by state and/or couple. This is, of course, a different type of child custody decision from one that happens when neither parent is available for care.

As you can see, minor guardianship and custody of a minor are two different things. However, they do overlap in guardianship cases that are not strictly financial. Guardianship cases require the use of an attorney; a lawyer is also provided by the state for the minor child.

Contact SmithLaw for more information.


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