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  3. Family Law: How to Become the Legal Guardian of a Child in California

When a child needs to be placed with a legal guardian other than his/her biological parents, it can be for a limited amount of time or until he/she reaches the legal age of adulthood.

Perhaps you are seeking to look after the child of a family member or close friend. How do you go about becoming the legal guardian of a child?

In California, a person can become the legal guardian of a minor if they are at least 18 years old and have never been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.

While a court will usually try to place a child with a close family member, any adult can be the legal guardian of a child if they file the proper form. Perhaps the child isn’t close with any members of their family aside from their parents and spend most of their time with a neighbor. If the parents, for any reason, can no longer care for the child, the neighbor can attempt to establish guardianship of the child. If it seems the child will have a better quality of life with their neighbor than a family member attempting to seek guardianship, the court may grant guardianship to the neighbor. California courts will always rule in favor of what’s deemed best for the child.

Temporary vs. Permanent legal guardianship

There are two types of legal guardianship: temporary and permanent. A temporary guardianship would be sought if the legal parents of the child are in an emergency situation, i.e. they’ve been arrested or placed in a facility such as a rehab center or mental institution. In such situations, the intention is that the parents will be able to claim guardianship of the child once they are physically and mentally capable of doing so.

If you seek to be the permanent legal guardian of a child, you will do so for the duration of their childhood. You will have full parental rights of the child and will be able to make decisions on their behalf. Permanent legal guardianship is awarded in cases where the parents are: deceased, will serve a sentence for an extended length of time, or are physically or mentally incapable of caring for their child.

The process for establishing legal guardianship is the same if you are seeking temporary or permanent legal guardianship of a minor.

You need to fill out:

  • A petition for Appointment of Guardianship
  • A Guardianship Petition – Child Information Form
  • A Notice of Hearing (guardianship or conservatorship)
  • A Duties of Guardian Form
  • Letters of Guardianship
  • A Declaration Under Uniform child custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Form
  • A Consent of Proposed Guardian/ Nomination of Guardian/ Consent to Appointment of Guardian Waiver

In addition to the above, and if you have it, you will need consent of the parent or legal guardian of the child. If there is no consent, you can still seek legal guardianship of the child. The full process for seeking and attaining legal guardianship of a minor can be quite difficult. It’s advised to seek help from a guardianship attorney who can ease the often confusing proceedings.

Reach out to Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP

Our Oceanside attorneys are well versed in legal guardianship proceedings. We are dedicated to helping children grow up in safe and happy homes and will work with you to seek a favorable outcome from your legal guardianship case.

Schedule a complimentary consultation with us, please call (760) 722-7646 or complete our online contact form.