When a child with developmental or mental disabilities turns 18, management of his or her legal affairs may become an issue.

Under Louisiana law, a judge may appoint a “tutor,” or guardian, with legal authority to make certain decisions on behalf of a person with such a disability.

A continuing tutorship may be obtained for someone who has developmental or mental disabilities and is between the ages of 15 and 18. If a continuing tutorship is granted by a court, the parent or tutor maintains the legal authority to act for the individual after age 18 and through his or her adulthood.

Legal assistance for parents in Orleans and Jefferson parishes who are considering a continuing tutorship is being provided by the Family Law Section of the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice of the Loyola University College of Law.

A continuing tutorship limits the young person’s right to enter into a contract, requires permission from the tutor if the young person wishes to marry and gives the tutor authority to represent the young person’s interests in all legal situations. The tutor has specific authorization to consent to any medical treatment and educational plans for the individual, and has access to all records pertaining to those areas. It does not restrict the right to vote.

As a legal and binding document, continuing tutorships are enacted through the services of an attorney and must be filed in the proper manner and be signed by a judge.

At Loyola, clinical professor of law Cheryl Prestenback Buchert and student practitioners Caitlin Smitherman and Lindsey Soboul are partnering with Families Helping Families of Jefferson to provide this legal representation. Although the law clinic does not charge attorney fees, the parents are responsible for the court costs. Eligibility for this service and pending court fees will be discussed during a telephone interview. Inquiries must be made well before the child turns 18 because of the time involved in interviewing, processing and filing the information with the court.

For information, call Buchert at (504) 861-5599.

Jane Pic Adams writes about issues of interest to individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers. Contact her at jpa.article@gmail.com.