Parent and child with disability reading together

Guardianship Attorney

Adults who are disabled or incapacitated cannot make legal decisions for themselves. Minors face similar issues.

Sutton Law Firm can help you assume legal guardianship so you can make the best decisions for your loved one.

Contact our offices in Bartow, St Petersburg, or Lakeland, FL, to learn how legal guardianship can protect someone you care about.

What Does Guardianship Mean?

Guardian and minor

A legal guardian is someone who the court appoints to provide care and make decisions for an individual who cannot do it themselves. The ward, or person in need of care, can be a minor or an incapacitated adult family member, spouse, friend, or other person known to the guardian. 

Debra J. Sutton is a board-certified attorney who is distinguished in the area of family law. During a consultation at her Lakeland-area legal office, our attorney can help you explore what options are best for you and the person in need of guardianship. 

Are You Seeking to Become a Legal Guardian? Contact Our Florida Offices Today

Laws regarding property ownership and medical decisions can be unclear, especially when it comes to minors or family members who can no longer make their own decisions. The family law attorney at Sutton Law Firm can help you with issues related to guardianship, including probate disputes, estate questions, child custody, child support, and more. 

Ms. Sutton has practiced family law for more than 30 years and is an attorney who can handle complex guardianship cases, providing favorable outcomes for you and your loved ones. In addition to our Lakeland office, Sutton Law Firm also has offices in St. Petersburg and Bartow, FL. 

If you're seeking to be appointed as a guardian of a minor or incapacitated adult, request a consultation online with our attorney today or call:

(863) 533-8912

Ms. Debora Sutton

"Glad she was my lawyer"  5-Star Reviews for Our Guardianship Attorney


Vicki Watson


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I have hired Ms. Sutton twice and both times she has gone above and beyond. She is professional but also caring. More then once she called me to calm my anxiety about my case. Her professionalism and knowledge of the law in the courtroom made me glad she was my lawyer. Hopefully I never need a lawyer again, but if I do, I will hire Ms. Sutton.

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Sandra Weaver


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Debra and her staff were very professional and sincere in helping me through my collaborative divorce. Debra was extremely knowledgeable and helpful during this time and made me feel very comfortable through the process. I would highly recommend Debra and The Sutton Law firm.

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What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Guardian?

Before arguing your case for guardianship, our lawyer will review your qualifications to assume responsibility for a minor or adult. Under Florida law, the following qualifications must be met before the state considers granting guardianship:

  • To be a guardian, a Florida resident must be legally independent and at least 18 years of age. A ward cannot be appointed as a guardian of another person. 
  • A judge cannot appoint another judge to be someone's guardian unless that judge is related to the ward by blood, marriage, or adoption. If a judge is appointed in this manner, he or she must serve without compensation. 
  • Nonresidents of Florida can serve as a Florida resident's guardian if they are related by blood, the spouse of the resident, or a legally adopted child or adopted parent of the ward. 
Lawyers reviewing case

Disqualifications for Guardianship

When our Lakeland attorney reviews your qualifications to become an appointed guardian, there are some factors that she will look for that can disqualify you. Under Florida law, you can be disqualified for guardianship for some of these reasons:

  • Being convicted of a felony.
  • Being incapable of carrying out the duties of a guardian due to incapacity or illness.
  • Having been deemed abusive, or having neglected or abandoned a child. 

When seeking to be a legal guardian of a ward, having an experienced attorney like Ms. Sutton review your qualifications can prevent complications. If you're unsure about Florida's guardianship laws or seek legal counsel related to making decisions for someone else, contact us at our Lakeland, St Petersburg, or Bartow offices today. 

Who Determines If Someone Needs Guardianship?

In each guardianship case, the court decides whom to appoint as the guardian of a ward. In some cases, guardianship is automatically given, like biological parents with their children.

In cases where a ward may have cognitive difficulty due to age or a disability, the guardian may have to prove a person's incapacity. This can be done with a psychological or medical evaluation presented to the courts, verifying if the person in question can handle their day-to-day affairs. 

Contact us if your guardianship comes into question or you believe a loved one is in need of a guardian. 

Types of Guardianship

Adult with a disability and parent

A Disabled Adult

The parents of a child who is physically or mentally disabled are responsible for their health and financial wellbeing. When the child becomes an adult, a similar level of care and support is often needed. As an attorney who has represented clients in state-level and federal-level cases, Ms. Sutton knows how to approach cases that are delicate or complicated. With her as your lawyer, you can rest assured that she will provide strong arguments why you or a loved one should be appointed as the guardian of a disabled adult.  

Grandparent with grandchildren

A Minor

A child's parents are considered their legal guardians. In the case of death or if a parent loses child custody, the guardianship of a parent may have to change. If you're thinking of taking over guardianship of a minor and wondering what it would take to be appointed, our lawyer can review the legal process with you. Ms. Sutton understands that each guardianship case is unique and will give you the individualized attention needed to produce favorable court decisions. 

Incapacitated parent and adult child

An Incapacitated Person

Our attorney recommends a guardian for an elderly person who is incapacitated and no longer able to take care of their everyday needs on their own. In many cases, an adult child or younger sibling is often appointed as the role of the guardian, managing finances and health decisions. Sutton Law Firm can also help you and your ward through probate issues like establishing estates and making sure inheritances are easily transferred from one party to the next. 

Guardianship vs. Adoption

When it comes to minors, guardianship and adoption may sound like the same thing. However, there are some key differences. 

Adoption terminates the rights of biological parents; in contrast, guardianship of a minor may be temporary. When a minor is adopted, they are not able to automatically inherit property from their biological parents. Their biological parents are also no longer responsible for child support. 

The lawyers at our Lakeland law office can help you weigh the advantages of guardianship and adoption so you can decide which option is best for you and your ward. 

"You won't be disappointed." 


David Smith


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Recently necessity required yet again I reach out to Ms. Sutton for legal matters. Debra has handled my legal representation for family matters for over 13 years. Never has she waivered from anything but professional and effective legal representation. She will remain your advocate throughout any process from start to finish and continue to provide prompt service after the case is completed. If you need an attorney who will be YOUR advocate during stressful times, this is the one. You won’t be disappointed.

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Debra Sutton and Sutton Law Firm are the epitome of what you hope lawyers are going to be... Debra and her staff worked tirelessly to resolve my legal issues on multiple fronts simultaneously dealing with opposing counsel who are inept, unethical and bordering on criminal - with grace, integrity and confidence. Debra was referred to me by a trusted attorney friend - the highest accolade an attorney can receive. This alone endeared her to me. However, she exceeded expectations and consistently went "over and above". I was never let down. 

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Debra J. Sutton

Sutton Law Firm

Debra J. Sutton is an attorney who is board-certified in both appellate practice and marital and family law by the Florida Bar. At the Sutton Law Firm, with offices in Bartow, Lakeland, and St. Petersburg, Ms. Sutton, Mr. Kovschak, and their team provide individualized, compassionate, and private legal services. Our popular practice areas include:

You can request a consultation with our board-certified attorney right now by filling out our online form or calling (863) 533-8912.

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