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How can someone become a guardian in California?

When someone wants to become a guardian of a child in California, they typically do so by filing a petition with the court. Other relatives of the child must be given notice in addition to the parents if they are living. If either one of the parents object, the court will hold a contested hearing at which the intended guardian will need to show that it is in the best interests of the child to appoint him or her as the child's guardian.

The forms and processes involved can be quite complex. If the person is only wishing to become a guardian over the child, they start with filing a petition for guardianship. If a person is wishing to be appointed guardian of the child and his or her estate, then the initial filing is a petition for appointment of guardian of minor.

Notice must be given to the child's parents, grandparents, siblings and half-siblings a minimum of 15 days before the hearing. The paperwork must be served by a person over the age of 19, and the person cannot be a party involved in the action. The court will assign an investigator to interview the child and the person filing for guardianship as well as the child's parents if they are living. The investigator will make a recommendation to the court regarding whether or not the guardianship should be approved.

There are many reasons why a person may seek appointment as a child's legal guardian, and this information is not reflective of an individual attorney's advice. Since unexpected situations can occur, parents may wish to speak with an attorney experienced in estate planning in order to ensure that their child receives adequate care. He or she may be able to appoint a new guardian in the event of their untimely death.

Source: California Courts, "Becoming a Guardian", October 29, 2014

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