Guardianship in California
(Probate Code Section 1500 – 1611)
A guardianship exists when an adult who is not the child’s parent is appointed by the court to care for the child’s person and/or property. If you are appointed as the legal guardian of a child, you will have the authority and obligation to make decisions affecting the care, education, medical treatment and supervision of the child (also referred to as “the ward” for guardianship proceedings). When a guardianship is established, the parents’ rights to the care, supervision, and custody of the child are temporarily suspended. However, the parents may have the right to reasonable visitation with the child as well as an obligation to pay child support to the guardian.
Generally, the court will appoint you as guardian of a child if the parent or parents are unable or unwilling to exercise their parental rights or if the parents voluntarily consent to the guardianship. The court will grant a guardianship if it is shown through clear and convincing evidence that appointment of the guardian serves in the best interest of the child (See California Family Code 3041).
A court can appoint you to be the legal guardian of a child if you are a relative, friend of the family or if the court considers you suitable to raise the child.
Difference Between a Guardianship and Adoption
There are many differences between a guardianship and an adoption. First, an adoption substitutes one parent or set of parents for another. Thus, the adopted child is treated the same as a birth child.
With a guardianship, parents still have parental rights and can ask the court for reasonable contact with the child. With an adoption, the parents’ rights are permanently ended.
Another difference is that with a guardianship, the court can end the guardianship if the parents become able or willing to care for the child. With an adoption, the legal relationship with the adoptive parents is permanent.
If you are appointed as a child’s legal guardian, you will be supervised by the court. In an adoption, the adoptive parents are not supervised by the court.
Lastly, an adopted child would inherit from his or adoptive parents, similar to a birth child. But with a guardianship, the child will not inherit from your estate.
Types of Guardianships
There are two types of guardianships: guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate.
Guardianship of the Person
When a court appoints you as a guardian of the person, you will have the same responsibilities to care for the child as the natural parent. You would have full legal and physical custody of the child and may make all the decisions about the physical care of the child. You would be responsible for the child’s care, supervision, food, clothing, shelter, safety, protection, physical growth, emotional growth, medical care, dental care, and education.
Guardianship of the Estate
When a court appoints you as a guardian of the estate, you will be responsible for managing the child’s income, money, investments, or other property until the child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 years-old. A child may need you to be a guardian of the estate if he or she inherits money or assets in which the parents are absent or dead. Generally, a court would appoint the surviving parent to be the guardian of the child’s estate. Usually, this form of guardianship may be necessary if the minor’s real and personal property assets total more than $5,000.
California Guardianship Attorney
A guardianship is very complex and it is important that an experienced California guardianship attorney is there to guide you. The guardianship attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have handled guardianships and other family law matters for more than 30 years. With offices located in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Victorville, West Covina, Sherman Oaks, Torrance and Ventura , there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney available wherever you happen to live. Please call (888) 749-7428 to consult with a Wallin & Klarich attorney today. We will get through this together.