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How Can I Become a Child’s Legal Guardian?

Choosing to become a child’s legal guardian is a big step, and one that can be extremely stressful and complicated if you do not have the appropriate help. When a child’s parents can no longer provide proper care, someone else needs to step forward on the child’s behalf. While it is possible to care for a child without becoming that child’s legal guardian, guardianship allows the caretaker much more authority and responsibility. However, not just anyone can become a child’s guardian.

If you are interested in becoming the legal guardian of a child in your life, you will need to file several forms and follow the proper protocol before receiving a California court’s approval. Before you begin the process, make sure you know how guardianship works.

California Law & Guardianship

Each state has its own laws regarding guardianship, and California is no exception. In California, guardians are appointed based on the best interest of the child. In other words, the court needs to believe that you, the guardian, are the very best option the child has. This might occur if the child’s parents are deceased, or if they are seriously ill, mentally unstable, absent, or if they are considered unfit. However, in some cases, several adults might petition for the guardianship of one child. In such cases, the court will need to decide which individual is the best person to care for the child.

Once appointed, a guardian will be responsible for his or her charge until the child reaches the age of 18 and becomes an adult. Until then, the guardian assumes custody of the child and is entitled to manage the child’s property, or “estate.” Again, the guardian must assume custody and manage the child’s property in a way that serves the child’s best interest.

Guardianship is Not Adoption

It’s important to note that guardianship is not the same as adoption. With an adoption, the new caretaker receives all parental rights and those of the child’s biological parent are terminated. A guardian, however, does not have parental rights. In other words, if the parents become able to take care of their child, the court could terminate guardianship to allow the parents to once again care for their child.

Becoming a Guardian

If you know what guardianship entails and you think it is the best option for you, make sure you know how the process plays out.

To become a legal guardianship, follow these steps:

In order to become a legal guardian, you must fill out the proper forms. Once you know how guardianship works and you are confident it is the best option for you, ask your court for the appropriate forms to petition for guardianship.

Next, you need the forms reviewed. Take your completed forms to your attorney and make sure everything has been filled out properly. To cover all your bases, it would be smart to make copies of these forms once they’re completed.

File the forms with the appropriate court. You can file for guardianship with the county clerk at your local courthouse. However, in certain situations, you may have to go to a specific courthouse to submit these forms. Usually, this only occurs when another court is already handling the child’s case.

Provide notice of the guardianship petition. When you wish to become a child’s guardian, you need to notify that child’s parents, relatives, and other agencies to let them know what you are doing. This process can be extremely complicated, and difficult to execute since you cannot be the one to give these individuals notice. Having an experienced attorney by your side during this stage of the process is the best way to ensure you provide notice properly.

Handle additional paperwork, including the consent and waiver of notice, as well as the proof of service. This paperwork can be complicated and difficult to decipher, which is why you should work with an attorney who knows what forms you need to file with the court.

Prepare for the court investigation report. A court investigator will look into your case by interviewing you and the child, along with other important individuals. This investigation will be sent to the judge for official review before guardianship is granted.

Get ready for court. Once all of the building blocks for the case are in place, you will need to attend a hearing before a judge. To prepare for this step, you and your attorney will need to work together to gather the appropriate forms and information to prove your eligibility as a guardian.

Are you ready to petition for guardianship? Contact Singleton Smith Law Offices, Inc. to schedule an appointment with our Murrieta family law attorneys.