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Who can apply for guardianship?

Anyone aged 18 or over can apply for a guardianship order for an adult family member, friend or client who has impaired decision-making capacity and has difficulty making personal or financial decisions.

An adult who is worried about their own capacity to make decisions in some areas, and thinks they need a guardian, can also make an application for themselves.

An application for a guardianship order is made to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal. You can download an application form (Form AG1) from their website (see Guardianship of Adults forms).

Please see our fact sheets:
PDF icon FAQs - adult guardianship in the NT.pdf
PDF icon Information for guardians.pdf
PDF icon Applying for guardianship.pdf


What is impaired decision-making capacity? 

An adult may have impaired decision-making capacity if they have difficulty:

  • understanding and remembering information about their personal or financial matters
  • weighing up this information to make reasoned and informed decisions
  • communicating their decisions in some way.

An adult’s decision-making capacity may be considered to be impaired even if:

  • the impairment only happens sometimes or varies depending on the situation
  • the adult can make decisions about some personal or financial matters.

An adult is presumed to have decision-making capacity until the opposite is shown.

Section 5 of the Guardianship of Adults Act 2016 defines decision-making capacity.


How do I apply for guardianship? (application)

How do I apply for guardianship?

Any adult aged 18 or over can apply for a guardianship order for an adult family member, friend or client who has difficulty making personal or financial decisions.

There is no fee for making an application.

You will need evidence

You must be able to:

  • supply information about the person’s impaired decision-making capacity and how it affects their decisions
  • identify who you think should be their guardian(s).

Please see our fact sheets ‘FAQs – Adult guardianship in the NT’ to learn more about decision-making capacity, and ‘Information for guardians’ about what a guardian does. 
PDF icon FAQs - Adult guardianship in the NT.pdf
PDF icon Information for guardians.pdf

You will need to fill in a form

You must apply for a guardianship order to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT):

1      Go to the Publications & Forms page on the NTCAT website.

2      Scroll down to Guardianship of Adults Forms

3      Download the form ‘Application for a Guardianship Order’ (Form AG1).

4      Fill in the form and gather any evidence you need.

5      Submit your completed form to the NTCAT by email, fax, post or in person.

Supply medical evidence

Along with the application form, you will need to give evidence of the adult’s impaired decision-making capacity, such as a recent medical or psychological assessment report.

You can ask a doctor or health professional to fill in the ‘Report by Medical Practitioner or Other Health Practitioner’ form (Form AG3).

You might also need to supply a:

·       ‘Proposed Guardian Eligibility Declaration’ form (Form AG2)

·       ‘Primary Carer’s Report’ (Form AG4).

All of these forms are on the NTCAT website.

Please see our fact sheet for more information.
PDF icon Applying for guardianship.pdf


How do I apply for guardianship? (next steps)

What happens next?

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal will set up a hearing

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal will arrange an application hearing and let you know by letter when and where it will be.

The Office of the Public Guardian takes an interest in guardianship applications, so our staff might contact you to ask you some questions before the hearing happens.

You should come to the hearing

You are responsible for coming to the hearing. You might need to help the person the application is about to get there too.

If needed, you can arrange to take part in the hearing by telephone or video instead.

Do you or the adult need an interpreter?

If you need a language interpreter there are services available to help you.

Please see our Help & support page for a list of some interpreter services.

Other relevant people can also attend

Any interested person with concern for the adult can also come to the hearing. An interested person might be:

  • their relative, friend or a social worker
  • someone who provides support or care
  • anyone else with a genuine and sufficient interest in protecting the adult’s best interests
  • the Public Guardian or the Public Trustee.

Do I need to have a lawyer at the hearing?

It is up to you. You can ask a lawyer to talk for you at the hearing if you want to. But you will need to pay for the lawyer yourself or get help through Legal Aid or a community legal organisation.

You are not required to have legal representation at a Tribunal hearing.

Please see our Help & support page for a list of some legal organisations.

Please see our fact sheet:
PDF icon Applying for guardianship.pdf


How do I apply for guardianship? (outcome)

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal looks at several factors

In deciding whether to make a guardianship order, the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal will consider both:

  • the nature and extent of the impairment to the adult’s decision-making capacity
  • whether their needs could be adequately met in a way that restricts their freedom of decision and action less.

The Tribunal will look closely at the evidence you supply, and consider the kinds of personal or  financial decisions that need to be made in the adult’s life.

When an interim (urgent) order is needed

The Tribunal can make an interim guardianship order when an application has been submitted but not yet decided.

It must reasonably believe that the adult meets the criteria for an order and urgently needs a guardian.

Young people can have an order

The Tribunal can also make a guardianship order for a young person who is 17. It must be reasonably satisfied that the criteria for making an order will be met when they turn 18.

The order will take effect on their 18th birthday.

Please see out fact sheet:
PDF icon Applying for guardianship.pdf


What is a guardianship order?

A guardianship order is a legal document which states what decisions a guardian can make for the adult who is the subject of the order (the ‘represented adult’).

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal will give a copy of the order to each guardian and the represented adult after it is made.


What is the NTCAT?

‘NTCAT’ is short for Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The NTCAT is sometimes also referred to as the ‘Tribunal’.

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal is the authority that decides applications for guardianship in the Northern Territory. It can:

  • receive applications for guardianship from members of the public and the Public Guardian
  • hear evidence from people applying for guardianship
  • make guardianship orders and related orders
  • appoint guardians (‘private’ guardians, the Public Guardian and/or the Public Trustee)
  • reassess and make changes to guardianship orders
  • ask the Office of the Public Guardian to conduct an inquiry or investigation into a matter
  • cancel a guardianship order.

You can find out more about the NTCAT on their website.


How long does a guardianship order last?

The guardianship order will state when the order starts (‘Date Given’), when it ends (‘expires’) and when the order will be reassessed.

An order may be a short as 90 days or last for several years. This decision is made by the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal at the application or reassessment hearing.


Can I change a guardianship order?

Any person can apply to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) to make a change to a guardianship order at any time.

This includes if you:

  • are the represented adult
  • can no longer be a guardian
  • have concerns for the adult’s welfare
  • have another legitimate reason.

You are welcome to speak with us at the Office of the Public Guardian to discuss your situation.

If you are a guardian and just need a short break from your role, due to ill health or another important reason, the Public Guardian may be able to help.

You can call us on 1800 810 979 or contact us via the details on our contact page.

Contact details for the NTCAT are here.

You can download an ‘Application to vary, revoke or reassess a guardianship order’ (Form AG5) from the Publications & Forms section of the NTCAT website.


Can I register an interstate guardianship order?

Yes. You can apply to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) to register an interstate guardianship order if the adult is living in the Territory. The form can be downloaded from the Publications & Forms section of the NTCAT website (Form AG6).

It is important that orders are registered in the place where the adult is living permanently. This may or may not be where a guardian lives.


What if a guardian is needed urgently?

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal can make an interim guardianship order while it decides an application if it reasonably believes the adult has impaired decision-making capacity and urgently needs a guardian.

Please see our fact sheet:
PDF icon Applying for guardianship.pdf


How many guardians can someone have?

An adult may have one or more guardians appointed in a guardianship order.

For example, one guardian might be appointed to pay bills and look after the adult’s financial affairs. Another guardian might have authority to make decisions about where the adult lives, or their health care.

If an adult has more than one guardian appointed, the guardianship order will say what each guardian can do and how decisions must be made.

It is important to think about how the guardians will work together to make decisions and have a practical arrangement.

Please see our fact sheets:
PDF icon What is a guardian.pdf
PDF icon Information for guardians.pdf


Can a young person have a guardian?

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal can make a guardianship order for a 17-year-old for when they turn 18. The aim is to smooth the transfer of decision-making authority from childhood to adulthood.