If you’d like to become a guardian in California, you have to go through a lengthy legal process. There are various forms to fill out and documents you need to provide. Once all of your paperwork is complete, you’ll move onto a court hearing which will determine the outcome of the guardianship. Below is a summary of the step-by-step process to give you an idea of how you become a guardian in California.
It’s strongly advised to have legal representation to help you walk through the procedure of becoming a guardian in California. The process is long and complicated and mistakes are often made by individuals attempting to go it alone. A lawyer is especially necessary if:
- One or both of the child’s parents disagree with the guardianship
- There’s property or assets of high value in the child’s name
- The child has a developmental disability (physical, mental, or emotional)
- You live in another state
- The child is involved in other legal issues (juvenile charges, adoption, or child custody)
- The child is Native American (due to the extensive federal laws involved)
Step 1: Collecting the Proper Forms
A good place to start is the Guardianship Pamphlet (GC-205). It provides general information on becoming a Guardian in California, such as legal obligations, insurance, and parental consent. Reading this will give you a better idea of what being a guardian entails. You’ll also need to start filling out the proper forms. Links to .pdf versions of these forms are available on the official California Judicial Branch website. Some will include video instructions: You’ll need to complete:
- Petition for Appointment of Guardian of the Person (only use if you’re asking for guardianship of the person/child)
- Petition of Guardian of Minor (only use if you’re asking for guardianship of the child’s estate)
- Guardianship Petition
- Notice of Hearing
- Consent of Proposed Guardian, Nomination of Guardian, Consent to Appointment of Guardian, and Waiver of Notice
- Duties of Guardian
- Letters of Guardianship
- Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
- Confidential Guardian Screening Form
- Parental Notification of Indian Status (each parent of the child will have to give consent and sign this form)
- Order Appointing Guardian or Extending Guardianship of the Person (you’re only required to fill out the top box on this form)
Step 2: Review Forms
Once you have all of the above forms filled out, it’s important to have them reviewed by a legal expert, such as your family lawyer. Don’t submit your documents without having them reviewed first. The procedure takes a lot of time. If there are mistakes or even minor errors you might be required to start the entire process over again.
Step 3: Making Copies of All Completed Forms
Start making copies of all of your documents. You’ll have to give a copy to the courts and other people involved, such as the child’s parents or relatives. You’ll also want to start keeping records of all of your own paperwork.
Step 4: Submit Your Forms to the Court Clerk
Once you have your copies of your final documents, you can file them with the court clerk. Your copies will have a timestamp labeling them “FILED”. Remember that you’ll have to pay a court filing fee at this step. If you’re struggling to make this payment, contact a lawyer about asking for a fee waiver.
Step 5: Give Notice to Parents
In order to become a guardian in California, you have to give notice to parents, relatives, or family agencies that are involved in the child’s life. You CANNOT serve the papers (copies of the court forms) yourself. Someone 18 years old or older can serve the papers on your behalf or you can mail them to the appropriate people. You must always give notice, even in situations where you think it’s unnecessary. Giving notice is an essential part of the guardianship laws. If you cannot find a relative or parent, it’s important to document every step you took to try to find them. You’ll need that information to take additional steps if the parents/relatives can’t be found. Anyone who has signed the Consent to Appointment of Guardian and Waiver of Notice form doesn’t need to be given notice.
Step 6: Proof of Service Forms
After giving notice, you’ll have to obtain completed proof of service forms from the server. You’ll then file them with the court.
Step 7: Investigation
A court or social services investigator will interview you and look into your background. The investigator will also interview the child’s parents when possible. The investigator will then hand over a recommendation to the judge regarding your guardianship.
Step 8: Judge Makes a Decision
Finally, after completing all of the paperwork, giving consent, and participating in a thorough investigation, the judge will make a final decision.
For More Information on Becoming a Guardian in California
It’s worth mentioning again that this process is lengthy and complicated. Having an experienced lawyer by your side can make the process much easier. For more information, contact a family lawyer today!