1. Fill out guardianship forms
Fill out and sign the forms listed below. Make at least 3 copies of each form.
- Petition for Guardianship of a Minor: Complete this form to help you become the guardian of a minor.
- Exhibit A to Guardianship of a Minor: Use this form if you need to notify any of the child's relatives that you are petitioning for guardianship.
- Notice of Motion: Tell other parties about the case.
- Appearance and Consent for Letters Appointing Guardian: Use this form when a relative needs to agree to the guardianship.
If you live in Cook County:
- Minor Guardianship Request (Cook County): Use this program to help you fill out the forms needed to become the guardian of a minor in Cook County.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, you should also fill out the below application:
- Application for Waiver of Court Fees: Asks the court to participate in the court case for free if you do not have money to pay the court filing fees.
2. File your forms with the court
Now that you have filled out your forms, take the following actions:
- File the forms with the circuit clerk at the courthouse in the county where the child lives to start your court case. You may be able to file online. Check the circuit clerk's website to see if online filing is an option. You should file the following forms:
- Pay the court filing fee or get a fee waiver. There are fees to file most court forms. The fees depend on what kind of case you have. To find out how much the fees are, contact your local circuit clerk's office. If you don't have the money to pay the fees, file the Application for Waiver of Court Fees you filled out in Step 1. The court will review your Application for Waiver of Court Fees and decide whether you have to pay the court fees.
- The circuit clerk will stamp and keep the original forms. Have the circuit clerk also stamp the extra copies of your forms. Keep at least one copy for your records.
- Ask the circuit clerk for the first court date. The circuit clerk will either give you the court date when you ask or tell you how you will find it out. Once you have a court date, put this date on the Notice of Motion. Make sure the date is at least 2 weeks away so that you will have time to notify the parents and get a return receipt back.
3. Tell the child's adult relatives about the case
- The child's parents
- The child's siblings 18 years old and over
- The child, if the child is at least 14 years old
- Anyone else who has had legal or informal custody of the child
The way you give notice depends on whether you know where the relative lives. If you know the relative's address, then you serve them by mailing the documents by certified mail, return receipt requested.
Put the following papers in an envelope and take them to your local post office:
- Notice of Motion
- Petition for Guardianship of a Minor
- Exhibit A to Guardianship of a Minor (staple this to the petition)
Keep a copy of the above documents for yourself. Address the envelope to the child's relative. Go to the post office and tell the postal clerk that you want to send it certified mail, return receipt requested. Sign the card in front of the postal clerk.
In about two or three weeks, the post office should bring you either the green card receipt by itself or the green card receipt attached to the undelivered letter. Take the receipt to court on your court date.
If you do not get the green card receipt before your court date, call the post office where you mailed it and ask what happened. You should also appear in court on your court date and let the judge know that you have not received the receipt. The judge will likely continue the case to another date.
If you do not know the address of a relative, you have to publish notice of the case. Ask your circuit clerk for instructions how to do this in your county. You will need all of the following:
4. Go to your minor guardianship court date
Come to the court early with your paperwork and a valid driver's license or state identification card. Dress as you would for an important business appointment. The child must also come if they are 14 or older.
It is important to follow the below suggestions when going to court:
- Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your hearing time. Go to the courtroom listed on your court forms. If your forms do not have a courtroom number, look for a list of cases at the courthouse or ask the circuit clerk;
- Check in quietly with the courtroom staff and wait for your name and case number to be called; and
- When your case is called, walk up to the judge and introduce yourself. Briefly tell the judge what you want out of the case. After listening to you and the other side, the judge will let you know what happens next.
If this is your first time going to court, learn more about the process of Going to court.
Bring these items to your court hearing:
- Order for Guardian of Minor filled you (the original and 1 copy for each child)
- The child's birth certificate (the original and 1 copy)
- Any death certificates, for example of the child's parents or former guardian (the original and 1 copy)
- Appearance and Consent for Letters Appointing Guardian from any relatives agreeing to the guardianship
- Return receipt of certified mail notices
Wait for your case to be called. When your case is called, step up and tell the judge you want to be the child's guardian. Answer the judge's questions. If the minor is at least 14 years old, they should step up with you. The judge will ask minors 14 and older if they agree to the guardianship.
When you are finished speaking with the judge, wait until the clerk gives you a court order that will let you know what the judge decided.
5. Get a certified copy of the minor guardianship order
If the judge grants your request to become the guardian of the child, you will need to get a certified copy of the order. Take the order back to the circuit clerk. The circuit clerk will certify the order and then direct you to the cashier.
If you do not have a fee waiver, there will be a fee for each order you need certified. If you have the fee waiver, you will need to show your signed and stamped fee waiver order to the circuit clerk. Do not leave the building until you have done this. You must get the court order certified the same day that you receive it.