Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Guardianship - Can you tell me your experience?

I am going to begin the process. After a weekend with my son, it needs to happen. His dad is in denial and this needs to stop before he completely deteriorates. We are on such good terms right now, but its time to step it up and do this. I need my forum peeps to help me. I am completely terrified.


I am in Ohio, and I understand different states can have different procedures. I got guardianship of my son at the height of his illness which helped to speed things along. We had a caseworker at the time because it was recommended through the mental health agency that we were going to. The caseworker attended the process with us which was helpful. The doctor wrote a detailed “physicians statement” which was required. I was able to speak and I told the whole ugly truth. My son was angry at me but also really did not understand anything that was happening although he thought he did. The court appointed an attorney for my son because that is his right. That was fine because as much as the attorney tried he could not really get very coherent sentences out of my son. It was what it was. It helped me. They also scheduled my son with a court appointed psychiatrist. That was also okay even though I was really worried he would have a rare lucid moment at the time of the appointment and somehow “fool” the doctor. He did not and the doctor agreed with my son’s doctor on everything. Then we had to face the judge which was just me, my son, his attorney and his case manager. We all spoke. The judge reviewed the materials and asked my son a few key questions about how he cared for himself. My son had grand delusions of how he was perfectly equipped to do everything that was needed for himself as a homeless person with no job and no diploma and he emphatically stated he had no illness. The judge quickly ruled me as his legal guardian and his rep payee to govern his finances, his housing and his medical care. It was the best thing I ever did to help get my son to the place of wellness he is today. In addition the court waived the court fees based on the fact that my son had no income and he lost the case so the fees were on him. I think initially my filing charges may have been $40 or less, I do not remember paying much money at all. The biggest lesson I learned from my experience was that it is normal for moms like us to be hated and treated awfully when we are the main caretaker of our MI kids (trying to do the right thing) and they are not yet stable. I resolved to never forget how important I was to him even if he didn’t know it and to weather the angry storms until we reached stability which we eventually did. Today we get along great and he has no memories of ever “hating me” or treating me poorly. That doesn’t surprise me because he was delusional. I love him dearly, we are both survivors of his illness. If I had the guardianship thing to do over again the only thing I would change is I would have done it a lot sooner. My best to you.


I got an emergency guardianship when our son was catatonic in a hospital, had refused meds for 2 years, and after having recently been homeless living out of a car for 3 months in another state where it gets bitter cold in the winter. I wish it was a joint guardianship so my husband could also have this ability to step in but I’m told it is easier to get it for one person so that is what we have (and my husband can still help with most things). Our son had a court-appointed attorney but son did not appear for the hearing. Same scenario when I re-applied for a (I hate to say “permanent” but you know what I mean) before the emergency guardianship expired. Again, son declined to appear. We had such a history of the jobs he had lost, his lack of self-care, prior hospitalizations due to catatonia, etc., that I never felt there was a question on the part of the judge. It IS the best thing we have done but I don’t think we could have got it earlier just based on his illness. It required being able to show that he was a continuing danger to himself. Keeping good records is helpful. We used an attorney but it was worth every penny and I ended up reimbursing ourselves at the attorney’s direction from our son’s remaining funds. The goal was to spend down son’s assets so that there would not need to be a conservatorship (in our state, that is the $ part). So there were plenty of medical bills to pay along with the legal, and the judge awarded Guardianship only. This has made it possible for me to apply for SSI benefits on our son’s behalf, and I have access to all his medical records. Other than that, we really never talk about it. I encourage him to say that there is help (SSI benefits, for example, possibly housing) available to him and I hope he can live an independent life some day.


What an inspiring story! You might well have saved his life with your strength.

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I have been able to intervene on behalf of my son with just a medical and general power of attorney. I have had them since he was 23. I live in CO and he has been in facilities in MO and FL. What are the benefits to guardianship that a POA can’t give you?

I have had one hospital in CO tell me that my POA was not good enough to give info- but the medical records person thought it was sufficient and I got the records. In retrospect, I learned to ask them do they have a copy if the POA and have they read it. Make sure you have language in it that covers mental illness too! Best of luck!

A POA is much simpler. In our situation, our loved one was incapacitated at the time we initiated the proceedings and at risk to himself even if he had not been. A POA is voluntary, Guardianship is typically not, due to the person already being too sick to care for himself or incapacitated. In other words, he was determined by the court to not be competent to care for himself. I also found the following info on the web:

"Even if you have assigned an agent with a durable power of attorney, you retain the authority to handle your own affairs as long as you are mentally competent to do so. In addition, the agent cannot make decisions that explicitly go against your stated wishes, even if she sincerely believes doing so would be in your best interest. On the other hand, if the courts appoint someone to serve as your guardian, that person has the authority to make decisions regarding your care, even if you are cognizant and express your disagreement with her decisions.

Duty of Care
An agent who holds power of attorney must handle your affairs in your best interests. She must adhere to your stated wishes if you are mentally competent, or act according to what your wishes would have been if you become incapacitated. She risks becoming personally liable if she fails to adhere to these principles. On the other hand, while a guardian is charged to act as a prudent person would act in handling your affairs, she does not risk personal liability unless she displays blatant disregard for her duties or commits an illegal act, such as stealing your money."

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I’m in Colorado too. Was your son allowed to speak on his behalf during the process of gaining POA?

Thank you for the advice.