How do I get guardianship of my non-biological child with Downs Syndrome if her mother is incompetent to parent?

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How do I get guardianship of my non-biological child with Downs Syndrome if her mother is incompetent to parent?

I have parented my DS daughter for 12 years. She is now 15. Her mother has mental illness. PA courts don’t seem to care that at court the expert witness and psychiatrist said that no children should be in her care (diagnosed BPD and bi-polar). With the mother, I have a biological 8 year-old daughter. Both children are showing signs of emotional stress. They are raised as sisters. I want to protect the 15 year-old as she is cognitively 5-6 years old. I have no legal rights to her. What can be done to get guardianship of her? I have equal shared custody of the 8 year-old.

Asked on October 5, 2010 under Family Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I am assuming that you did not adopt her during your marriage and that her Father has not given up his parental rights, correct?  Where is he in the picture?  You need to get yourself a very good attorney because you are right: you have no legal rights as things stand now and obtaining them at this point is going to be an uphill battle.  During the divorce did you try and have her deemed unfit as a parent?  The one thing that I see as a problem with that is that the 15 year old would be taken away if there were no where for her to go and you do not want that to happen at this point so you need to petition for guardianship at the same time that you try that tactic.  All testimony can help: experts, family members, friends, pediatricians, teachers - anyone who knows how involved in her life that you are.  Good luck to you.


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