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What is guardianship advocacy and how do I apply?

Autistic and Down Syndrome Guardian Advocate
Autistic and Down Syndrome Guardian Advocate

Guardianship advocacy in Florida refers to a legal process designed to provide assistance and protection for individuals who are deemed to lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves, often due to developmental disabilities. This legal arrangement is specifically known as "guardian advocacy" in Florida, and it is established under Chapter 393 of the Florida Statutes. Guardian advocacy is a more streamlined and less restrictive alternative to traditional guardianship, focusing on protecting the rights and promoting the independence of individuals with developmental disabilities.


To initiate guardian advocacy in Florida, a concerned family member, friend, or another interested party can file a petition with the court. The individual for whom guardianship is sought must be determined to have a developmental disability that manifested before the age of 18. The court then assesses the person's capacity to make decisions in specific areas of their life, such as medical, financial, or personal matters. Unlike full guardianship, guardian advocacy is tailored to address only those areas where the person lacks decision-making capacity, allowing them to retain as much independence as possible.


Once appointed by the court, the guardian advocate assumes specific responsibilities based on the needs of the individual with a developmental disability. The court may grant authority over various decision-making aspects, ranging from medical treatment consent to financial management. Guardian advocates are expected to act in the best interests of the individual and are required to file regular reports with the court to ensure accountability and transparency in their decision-making.


Guardian advocacy aims to strike a balance between protecting vulnerable individuals and respecting their autonomy. By providing a more individualized and flexible approach compared to traditional guardianship, it seeks to empower those with developmental disabilities to lead fulfilling lives while still receiving necessary support and guidance.


What is the process of applying for a guardian advocacy?

Applying for guardian advocacy in Florida involves a specific legal process, and here is an overview of the key steps:


Eligibility Assessment:

    Before initiating the process, it's important to determine whether the individual in question meets the eligibility criteria for guardian advocacy in Florida. The person must have a developmental disability that originated before the age of 18.


Filing a Petition:

    A family member, friend, or interested party interested in becoming a guardian advocate must file a petition with the circuit court in the county where the person with a developmental disability resides. The petition should include relevant information about the individual, the nature of the disability, and the specific areas of decision-making authority sought.


 Notice to Interested Parties:

    After filing the petition, the court will schedule a hearing and require the petitioner to provide notice to certain interested parties, including the person with the developmental disability, their parents, and other close relatives. This notice ensures that all relevant parties are informed and have the opportunity to participate in the legal proceedings.


 Evaluation by the Court:

    The court will appoint an attorney to represent the person with the developmental disability unless they already have legal representation. The court may also appoint an expert to evaluate the individual's capacity to make decisions in the areas specified in the petition. This evaluation helps the court determine the appropriate level of decision-making authority to grant to the guardian advocate.


 Guardian Advocate Appointment:

    If the court determines that the person meets the criteria for guardian advocacy and that it is in their best interest, it will issue an order appointing a guardian advocate. The order will specify the areas of decision-making authority granted to the guardian advocate.


 Ongoing Reporting and Monitoring:

    Once appointed, the guardian advocate is required to file regular reports with the court, providing updates on the well-being of the individual and their decision-making capacity. These reports help ensure ongoing oversight and accountability.


It's crucial to note that the process may vary slightly depending on the specific circumstances, and legal advice from an attorney experienced in Florida guardian advocacy is highly recommended to navigate the process successfully.

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