When your child turns 18 years old, they are legally “emancipated.” This means that you will have no legal right to access to their health records or even to discuss your child with his or her doctor. The school may even exclude you from IEP or transition planning meetings and decisions — especially if your relationship with the school has been a little rocky. The county may refuse to renew services. The solution to these problems is to establish guardianship.
Guardianship may also be necessary for you to continue helping your child make health care decisions and apply for benefits such as social security that are necessary for vocational training and residential options. Guardianship enables you to protect your child from entering contracts they shouldn’t, such as credit cards or cell phones, and enables you to void contracts entered into during the preceding year.
Many parents assume that they are automatically the guardian for their child, even though their child is older than age 18. That just isn’t the case, however. To establish guardianship it is necessary to obtain a court order. We can help with the process — most of the time at no charge to families. As long as the individual in need of guardianship has little or no assets of their own, most counties will allow the guardianship to proceed “in forma pauperis.” This means that the county will pay the fees and costs involved. If you engage our services to assist you with obtaining guardianship, we will let you know at the outset whether or not we can help you at no cost.
If your child is “high-functioning” you should carefully consider less restrictive means to help your child be as independent as possible. Perhaps a health care directive and power-of- attorney will meet the needs of your family. The Autism Advocacy and Law Center, L.L.C. is committed to helping all individuals with a disability reach their full potential to live independently.