A guardianship grants legal responsibility of a child to someone other than the child’s parents. In most cases, a guardian will be appointed if the child’s parents have deceased or if the parents are unfit to care for the child. Guardians have an important job and play a significant role in many children’s lives. Unfortunately, the process of establishing a guardianship can be complex and longwinded.
Establishing a Guardianship
Every child deserves a safe and loving home. Sometimes, establishing guardianship is the only way to ensure that a child is treated with care.
In California, there are four primary steps you must take to establish yourself as a child’s legal guardian:
1. Filing the Paperwork
Becoming a guardian starts with a whole lot of paperwork. There are several forms you’ll have to fill out and file properly. Working with an attorney can simplify this process and give you peace of mind that you have completed all necessary paperwork accurately. The paperwork is free to obtain but you will have to pay a filing fee unless you qualify for a waiver.
2. Providing Notice
Once your paperwork has been filed, you will have to notify several people and agencies about your intent to become a child’s guardian. Giving notice allows others the opportunity to object to the guardianship.
You’ll have to give notice to:
- The person who currently has legal custody of the child
- The child if they are over 12 years old
- The child’s siblings and grandparents
- Your county’s human services or social services department
- The California Department of Social Services (if you are not related to the child)
Keep in mind that you cannot deliver or mail to notices yourself – you will have to select someone 18 or older who is not associated with the case to deliver the notices. Your court documents should specify a deadline for providing notice.
3. Submitting to a Court Investigation
After notices have been delivered, a court investigator will schedule an interview with you and possibly the child.
The investigator may also:
- Visit your home
- Review the child’s education and medical records
- Background check you and anyone you live with
Once they have completed their investigation, the court investigator will send a report to the court with their opinion as to whether you should become the child’s guardian.
4. Attending a Court Hearing
Anyone requesting guardianship will have to attend a (fairly informal) court hearing during which the judge will talk to you and possibly anyone who was notified of your request for guardianship. Be sure to bring your Order Appointing Guardian of the Minor form to this hearing. Once the judge signs this form, you can file it and you will become the child’s guardian.
Retain Representation from Alternative Divorce Solutions
If you are hoping to become a child’s legal guardian, it is in your best interest to retain a lawyer who can help you navigate the process and complete each step accurately. You can count on the team at Alternative Divorce Solutions to help you achieve your goals.