Civil Court Guardianship

When Child Welfare Is Not Involved

You cannot become a guardian in North Carolina without child welfare involvement unless there is no legal living parent. In other words, if the child has at least one living parent and is not in foster care, you need to go to court for a custody order. The Department of Social Services can file for Juvenile Court Guardianship on your behalf if the child is in foster care.  

Juvenile Court Guardianship

When Child Welfare Is Involved


  • Unlike adoption, guardianship does not require a child to be legally free. A child becomes legally free when the courts terminate parental rights (TPR), a legal process that means birth parents/primary caregivers no longer have the right to make decisions for their child. TPR is required for adoption, but not legal guardianship, making guardianship a good option when it is in the child’s and the family’s best interests to not terminate parental rights.  
  • Guardianship is more permanent than custody because in order to change it you must be proven to be unfit. 


  • At this time, there are no formal post-guardianship services available to kinship caregivers, but the child may be eligible for KinGAP.
  • You are not eligible for post-adoption services or adoption assistance. 
  • Because the parental rights have not been terminated, it can be costly to pursue adoption later. If you think that ultimately in the future you want to adopt the child, you should do it now because DSS will be responsible for the cost of terminating parental rights and thus save you the time and money to do it. DSS will ultimately make the decision of whether to do it, but you can request it. 
  1. Obtain a proof of guardianship
  2. Do you qualify for KinGap? What can this do for you?

*Not Intented as Legal Advice