Guardianship, as defined by a court order, involves designating someone other than the child's parent to either have custody of the child, manage the child's property (referred to as the "estate"), or fulfill both roles. This information pertains specifically to probate guardianships initiated either by the prospective guardian or a family member requesting a court appointment. It does not apply if custody was granted to a non-parent through juvenile dependency court proceedings.
If Child Protective Services (CPS) is involved, the matter likely falls under juvenile court jurisdiction. Probate guardianships of the person are established when a child resides with an adult who is not the biological parent, necessitating a court order for decision-making on the child's behalf. Typically, probate guardianships pertain to children under 18.
A guardianship differs from adoption in several ways:
In a Guardianship:
Parents retain parental rights and may request reasonable contact with the child.
The court can terminate the guardianship if parents regain the ability to care for the child.
Guardians may be subject to court supervision.
There are two types of probate guardianship, both determined by what is in the best interest of the child for a safe, stable, and loving environment:
Guardianship of the Person:
The guardian assumes responsibilities equivalent to a parent, possessing full legal and physical custody.
The guardian makes decisions about the child's physical care, encompassing food, clothing, shelter, safety, education, medical needs, and more.
Anyone suitable to raise the child, including relatives or family friends, can seek legal guardianship.
A guardianship of the person may be necessary when parents face challenges such as serious physical or mental illness, military deployment, rehabilitation programs, incarceration, substance abuse, a history of abuse, or other circumstances preventing them from caring for the child.
Guardianship of the Estate:
Established to manage a child's income, money, or other property until the child reaches 18, especially if the child inherits assets.
The court typically appoints the surviving parent as the guardian of the child's estate.
In some cases, the same individual may serve as guardian of both the person and the estate, while in other instances, two different people may be appointed.
The guardian of the estate is responsible for managing the child's financial resources, making wise investments, and ensuring careful property management.
Guardianship of the estate is required when the child owns or inherits valuable property, such as a house or a substantial sum of money. Conversely, it is unnecessary if the child possesses only inexpensive toys and clothing or receives social security benefits or welfare.
To become a guardian, individuals must file court papers and navigate a series of steps leading to a court hearing. While legal representation is not mandatory, the process demands considerable time and effort in completing court forms and notifying all relatives. Mistakes can result in delays, and in cases where parents object to the guardianship, legal assistance may be beneficial. For detailed information, refer to www.courts.ca.gov.