If a child’s parents are not available to take care of the child, a third-party may step forward or be appointed by a court to take care of the child and make sure that the child’s needs are met. There are several reasons a person may seek guardianship of a minor child in California. A child may end up in the custody of a third-party if the parents are dead or incapacitated. Sometimes it is because the child was removed from his or her parents by a court order through Child Protective Services (CPS). For cases involving CPS, a person seeking guardianship of a minor child must go through juvenile court. In cases of probate guardianship, the person seeking to serve as a guardian of a minor child must formally petition the probate court to become a guardian. Read on to learn more about child guardianship options in California.

Why Establish Guardianship of a Minor Child?

A Guardian can be appointed to take care of a child as a parent would. The guardian maintains physical and legal custody of the minor child and can make all decisions affecting the child. This includes medical decisions as well as providing basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing. A Guardian can also be appointed to specifically take care of the child’s financial matters when the child owns large assets. Guardianship is a major commitment to the child; there is a list of guardian duties a person considering acting as a guardian should consider before applying. Guardianship can require time and financial sacrifices by the guardian and applying for guardianship of a minor child is not something to take lightly.

Alternatives to Formal Child Guardianship

It is not always necessary to file court proceedings when dealing with concerns of child guardianship. In some situations, temporary authority can be provided to a third party without filing for formal guardianship through the court. California allows a parent to execute a Guardian Authorization to allow another party to temporarily care for a minor. This authorization allows the party to register the minor in school as well as authorize needed medical care. California Family Code also makes provision for a party to voluntary consent to care for a minor by signing a Caregiver Authorization. Both of these forms offer limited decision making authority for the guardian. These alternatives are reviewed in greater detail in another article.

Guardianship of a Minor Child Is Different Than Adoption

A guardianship differs from an adoption in several key ways. The most important difference is that, in an adoption, one or both biological parents must give up their parental rights to the adoptive parent. In the case of a guardianship, the guardian looks after the child, but without any permanent parental rights. Additionally, a court can supervise a guardian, and can end the guardianship at any time it feels the parents are fit to take care of their child. This is not the case with adoption, where the parent-child relationship is permanently severed and there is no court supervision.

Legal Guardianship of a Minor Child Requires Court Approval

There are multiple forms necessary when a person applies to the court to serve as a guardian. Once a person is appointed as a guardian, they can only be released from their duties by court order. The guardian can apply to the court for release, just as he or she may apply for appointment. There are also several forms to complete and file with the court. If you need affordable, non-attorney help in filling out these forms to apply for appointment as a child’s guardian, contact A People’s Choice, a legal document preparation service.

There are fees involved in filing the forms described above. If the guardian cannot afford to pay those fees, there are fee waivers available. The guardian must prove they qualify for the fee waivers by showing they are on public aid, they receive a certain maximum pre-tax income, or their income is insufficient to cover both the fees and other monthly bills.

Low-Cost Legal Document Preparation for California Guardianship

If you are considering filing for guardianship of a minor in California and want to avoid the high cost of attorney’s fees, contact A People’s Choice for low-cost legal document help for the guardianship paperwork. Although we cannot give legal advice, A People’s Choice can help you in preparing all the required legal documents to help you  set up a guardianship for a minor without having to hire a lawyer.

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If you need more information about how to set up a guardianship of a minor child in California, do not hesitate to call our office. A People’s Choice has been providing self-help legal document services for over 35 years and has established an excellent reputation in the community.  When you are ready to go ahead with your paperwork, information can be provided to us through our convenient online system, over the phone or in person. We prepare and process guardianship paperwork for filing in every county and Superior Court in California.