Responsibilities of guardianship

A guardian is an adult who's responsible for a child’s care, development and upbringing. This means:

  • giving the child a safe and secure home, and loving care and attention
  • helping the child develop as a person – their mental, emotional, physical, social, cultural and other development.

When a child is very young, a guardian will make decisions for them about things like:

  • where they live
  • where they go to school
  • medical treatment (other than routine medical matters)
  • what their culture, language and religion will be
  • any changes to their name.

As the child gets older, the guardian and the child will make decisions together more and more until the child is able to make some decisions on their own.

A guardian appointed by a parent in their will (a testamentary guardian) doesn’t have the right to have the child in their day-to-day care. If they want this, they can apply to the Family Court for a Parenting Order. (‘Parenting Order’ is a legal term. It doesn’t mean only parents can apply.)

Find out more about testamentary guardians

Find out more about Parenting Orders

How guardianship comes to an end

Guardianship of a child ends:

  • when the child turns 18
  • if the child gets married or enters into a civil union (the child will need their guardian’s written permission if they’re 16 or 17)
  • if the Family Court removes a person as a guardian (including parents, testamentary guardians and court-appointed guardians)
  • if the Family Court appointed someone as a guardian for a limited time or a particular purpose, and the time is up or the purpose has been achieved.

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