When to Consider Legal Sub-Presidency or Trusteeship

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A pediatrician shares advice on applying for a post / guardianship for parents of children with autism in the UK.

There will come a time when your child will become an adult. In the UK, the legal age for an adult is 18. When your son or daughter reaches this age, he or she becomes legally responsible for their own decisions, if they are considered to have the mental capacity to make such decisions.

If the young person with special needs is deemed not to have the required mental capacity, the Protection Court will decide for him in health, social and financial matters. Although most local authorities take the wishes of parents into account, the law does not oblige them to do so because the young person is now an adult who is a ward of the court.

Once a child turns 18, parents and guardians may lose the right to influence the custody of their son / daughter unless they have been legally appointed by the court as their assistant or tutor. If there is no replacement decree, at 18 plus one day, the decision-making will automatically revert to the young person and then to the local community. Legal guardianship or guardianship prevents local authorities from making decisions for the young person which, at times, may not be what the young person would have liked.

There are two types of deputy / guardian in the UK. Responsibilities include:

  1. Real estate and financial affairs such as managing the young person’s bank accounts, income, property and investments, paying bills and housing costs on their behalf and claiming benefits
  2. Make decisions about their health and well-being, including living conditions and medical care

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While becoming an assistant or tutor isn’t a big step in your autism journey, I hope parents will heed this advice and start planning early. Don’t wait for a critical situation to arise.

Advice from an autistic mother

As Brendan’s mother, I applied to the Court for Sub-Presidency / Legal Guardianship before he reached the age of 18, as it became apparent that Brendan, with high autism and significant learning disabilities, lacks the mental capacity to make health, social, social and financial decisions.

This process requires an application to the Court of Protection to obtain a sub-presidency or guardianship order through a lawyer. The Court will consider whether the proposed alternate is reliable and trustworthy. The Court will further consider whether the proposed alternate possesses the appropriate level of aptitude and competence to perform the necessary tasks. The application process can be lengthy and often takes months.

Quick tips

It is important to consider the following questions when deciding whether to apply for guardianship or guardianship:

  • Does your child have a range of health problems that require ongoing care and treatment?
  • Will your child continue studies beyond the age of 18?
  • Once your child becomes an adult, who will help them make decisions about their financial well-being?
  • What is its accommodation and how will the decisions be made?
  • If the young person lives away from home, for example in a foster home, who would you like to ensure that protective procedures are in place, and how important is your involvement in safety planning?

This article originally appeared in issue 124 – Autism around the world

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