CONDITIONS AND RULES FOR LEGAL GUARDIAN IN NIGERIA
Legal Guardianship is the quickest legal arrangement for the maintenance and care of a child or children whose parents are no longer capable of raising them due to financial incapacitation or any other issues. The care, custody and welfare of children under the age of 18 years are enshrined in the regulatory framework that includes institutions and laws. The purpose of this is to ensure children and young persons are not exploited or neglected by unsuspecting parties.
For a person to exercise legal rights, power and obligations over a child or young person, there must be a prior application and obtainment of the requisite approval from the relevant authorities. Failure to obtain approval for the child in contemplation is an offence punishable by law.
The rules of court that regulate proceedings relating to the rights, advancement and welfare of a child in Lagos State are the Childs Right Law of Lagos State 2007 and the Family court of Lagos state (Civil Procedure Rules) 2012. Generally, the Child Rights Act provides and guarantee protections to children and young persons throughout Nigeria.
Legal guardianship is one of the options of legal arrangement to be applied for in care, custody, benefits and welfare of a child whose parents are incapable of raising them. In this option, there is usually an existing parental tie such as a relationship between a child and a step-parent or grandparent. In the ordinary parlance, the parents of a child automatically retain the positions of legal guardians for the child. However, in the absence of the parents or one of the parents, a family member or an unrelated party or the proper authority can be appointed as the Legal Guardian with the capacity to exercise parental responsibilities of the child.
The supervision for Legal Guardianship’s application is within the jurisdiction of the Nigerian Court and not the Ministry of Youth and Social Development. The ministry is only involved where the child in contemplation is a ward of the Government or resident in an orphanage.
It is important to state that an application for guardianship may be rejected by court where there is no strict compliance with the rules of the court. In processing a legal guardianship, all documents submitted must be vetted and deemed satisfactory by the court, and the court will also determine if the applicant is capable of adequately caring for a child to warrant a grant of the approval.
Appropriate courts for the application of legal guardianship
The Courts that have the jurisdiction to hear the application for Legal Guardianship are the High Courts and Magistrate Courts designated as Family Courts in all States in Nigeria.
The proceedings for the suit or application for Legal Guardianship under Order 6 of the Family court of Lagos State Rules is commenced by an Originating Motion filed at the Registry of the High Court or Magistrate Court as decided by the applicant. The Originating Motion is heard by the High Court Judge or a Magistrate of the Magistrate Court.
The Originating Motion shall contain the following information:
The Originating Motion must also be supported by the followings:
By and large, the following documents must accompany the suit or application for Legal guardianship:
It is important to further state that Legal Guardianship can come to an end when the child reaches the age of 18 years.
The Court can make an order appointing a person fit and suitable as a child’s guardian after a satisfactory assessment report of the applicant. The conditions upon which the Court can reject the application is where the applicant cannot competently conduct proceedings on behalf of the child, the applicant has adverse interest in that child and does not undertake to pay any cost in relations to the proceedings.
Finally, where the order of guardianship has been granted to anyone in resect of a child, such person shall also be permitted to travel outside the country with the child, if the order to do so is sought together with the guardianship order from the court during the filing of the application or suit.
By Family Law Department at Resolution Law Firm, Lagos, Nigeria