Important Information for Legal Guardians

The following is an overview of frequently asked questions regarding legal guardianship in California.

Question: What is a Legal Guardian?

Answer: A legal guardian is an individual who are assigned to be the primary caretaker to a minor child or children in the event the parents are no longer able to provide care for them. A child can have more than one guardian.

Q: What are the rights and responsibilities of a legal guardian?

A: In general, a legal guardian has the right to make legal decisions on the child’s behalf. These decisions entail where they live, where they attend school, and other essential aspects of their life. Essential, legal guardians must perform the duties a parent would for their child.

These responsibilities include the following:

  • Providing shelter
  • Providing food
  • Buying clothes
  • Ensuring the child is in good physical and emotional health
  • Ensuring the child is safe

Q: Why should parents choose a legal guardian?

A: It is in the best interests of parents to designate legal guardians in a Last Will in the event an emergency hinders their ability to care for their minor children, ensuring that they are under responsible care. Prior to determining a guardian, discuss with your spouse the type of care you want your child to receive and the qualities you seek in a qualified individual.

Q: Who appoints legal guardians

A: Only a judge can appoint a legal guardian

Q: What are the different types of guardianships?

A: A “guardian of the person” is an appointed individual who makes decisions on the child’s personal affairs. A “guardian of the estate” is someone who makes decisions on property. In most case, only a guardian of the person is necessary.

Q: Can parents agree to let a person care for their child without going to court?

A: They can sign a notarized letter which states that a specific individual has “custody” of the child. The letter should provide the prospective guardian permission to make decisions for the child.

Q: What if the parents are not able to sign an agreement with a prospective guardian?

A: The prospective guardian can complete a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit, as long as the child stays in California. It does not require the parents signature. As soon as it is filled out, it must be notified.

Q: Can a legal guardian move the child out of California?

A: A legal guardian relocates the child out of the state unless you first obtain permission from the court. If a judge approves, the guardian must also apply for guardianship in the state where he/she relocates. Remember, different states have different rules.

Q: How does the legal guardian financial provide for the child?

A: Although the child may receive income from child support from the parents, inheritance from the deceased parents, public assistance or social security, the legal guardian will have to spend his/her own money to raise the child.

Q: How long does guardianship last?

A: Legal guardianship of a child will often end when the child becomes 18 years of age. However, guardianship may end for other reasons, such as the guardian becomes incapacitated and unable to care for the child. Some legal guardianship arrangements may be only temporary (especially in the event of an emergency)

Q: Should I hire a lawyer?

A: The family law courts determine legal guardianship, so it is important to have skilled legal representation on your side to obtain the best results possible. If you have issues with the legal process or with the legal guardian, an attorney can offer legal advice and represent you in court hearings.

Contact our Riverside County guardianship attorney at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich for more information today.


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