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Continuing Tutorship

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Parents of special need children often have unique concerns about their child’s future. Under Louisiana law, when a person turns 18 years of age, he or she is determined to have the capability to manage their affairs. In some instances, a child with special needs, even though considered capable under the law, may not be able to make decisions on their own or act independently. Unfortunately, after a child turns 18, he or she becomes legally responsible, and the parents/guardians of the child have no legal authority to act on the child’s behalf. In this case, parents may petition the court to continue in their role as decision-maker and legal guardian of their child. This proceeding is called a Continuing Tutorship.  Upon the Court’s approval, parents  or guardians are granted the right to continue taking actions for the benefit of their child. First, the parents sign a request asking the Court for continuing tutorship. Thereafter, an attorney will submit a concurrence of the coroner and the results of a standardized I.Q. test to the Court. The Judge will review the petition and the supporting documents. Next, the Judge will sign Letters granting the parents or guardian authority to continue acting in the best interests of their child.

Otherwise, if a child turns 18 years old, he or she is then considered an adult with the legal capacity to make decisions and act on their own. In such case, parents of a mentally impaired child would have to file for an interdiction proceeding. An interdiction proceeding requires a formal hearing before a Judge. Further, the court appoints a lawyer for the child and may require parents to post a bond and pay the cost for attorney. Expert witnesses are usually required to testify and the child may possibly be subjected to questioning by the Judge. This proceeding can be time-consuming, costly and stressful.  

Why can’t I just wait until my child turns 18? Why should I apply so early? 

Once your child turns 18, you can no longer ask the court for a continuing tutorship. Instead. you will have to ask the court for an interdiction. As previously referenced interdiction is a far more complicated legal process. It is much easier, and less expensive to apply for continuing tutorship before the child turns 18. 

What else does the court require for a continuing tutorship? 

You must establish that your child’ s mental abilities are at a level 2/3 or less than average for children of the same age. The proof will be reports of standardized tests, such as IQ tests, which have been given by licensed psychologists or psychiatrists. You must also have the approval of the coroner in your parish. 

How can I prove my child’s limited ability? 

School or medical records probably have the information you need. You should talk to your child’s doctors or school counselors if you do not have any records yourself. 

How long will the continuing tutorship last? 

The child will have a tutor until you or an attorney representing your child asks the court to remove the tutorship and presents evidence that the child does not need a tutor any longer. 

If I establish continuing tutorship, will I be liable for my child’s actions? 

Yes, if your child is found at fault in causing an accident or harm to someone, such as in a personal injury suit, the tutor could be liable.

If I establish continuing tutorship, will my income or resources affect my child’s SSI benefits after he or she reaches age 18? 

No, once a person turns 18, parental income and resources are no longer considered by SSI even if the recipient’s parents have continuing tutorship. 

Who will the court name as the person to make decisions for my child? 

The court will usually name the child’s parents but may select someone else if necessary. The person named to make decisions for the child is called the child’s “tutor”


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