The Steps to Becoming a Guardian

Providing a Child with the Care They Need

If a parent or parents are unable or unwilling to appropriately care for their child, a court can appoint a guardian. As a legal guardian, that adult may make decisions for the child regarding their care, education, medical treatment, and supervision. While the biological parents maintain their parental rights and may request reasonable visitation, becoming a guardian nonetheless establishes an adult’s role as a caretaker for the child.

The path to becoming a guardian, though easy, is relatively time-intensive. Our attorneys will help you every step of the way.

Beginning the Paperwork

To begin the process, you will need to fill out either the Petition for Appointment of Guardian of the Person or Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor. While both are the first step towards establishing guardianship of the person, the latter form allows the guardian to also handle the child’s estate. In addition to either of these forms, guardians will need to fill out:

There may be additional forms to fill out depending on your case. Our team will help you identify and complete all necessary paperwork accurately and efficiently.

Making Copies and Filing the Forms

After we’ve successfully completed the forms, we will make at least three copies and bring the originals and copies to the court clerk. After paying a filing fee, they will handle the original documents and return your copies to you with a stamp marking them as filed.

Serving Appropriate Parties

The next step is to give notice to the necessary parties. These people or agencies must be served with your court forms either by mail or in person by another adult. You cannot serve these groups yourself. We will help you notify the parties at least 15 days before the hearing for:

  • Parents, legal custodians, and the child if they are over 12
  • Grandparents, siblings, and half siblings
  • County human services or social services department
  • California Department of Social Services if you are not related to the child by blood, marriage, or adoption

The proofs of service must be filed with the court before your scheduled hearing.

If you could not find one or more of the relatives who require notification, we will document the details of attempts to make contact and the results. After doing so, we will help you craft a Request to Dispense with Notice and file it, alongside a blank Order Dispensing Notice, with the court. If approved by the judge, we will be able to proceed despite not being able to reach that relative.

Acquiring Approval

If you are able to, you should have all parties involved, that is, those who would otherwise require notice, sign the Consent to Appointment of Guardian and Waiver of Notice. If they sign, you will not have to serve them with notice. However, even if they verbally agree, if they do not sign the form, you will need to serve them with notice.

Investigation Reports

Prior to your court hearing, the court will see to it that investigations are conducted to verify your ability to properly care for the child in question. The court investigator will handle cases where the child is your relative. If the two of you are unrelated, the local human services or social services office will handle the study.

The Hearing

After the extensive preparatory work, we will be ready for the court hearing. We will bring the following to the case with us:

  • All court papers
  • Copies of Proof of Services forms
  • Letters of Guardianship
  • Order Appointing Guardian or Extending Guardianship of the Person
  • The child

After presenting the necessary materials and explaining your reasoning for wanting to become guardian, the judge will make their decision. If they rule that your assumption of the role of guardian is in the child’s best interest, they will sign your Order Appointing Guardian or Extending Guardianship of the Person. The clerk will then issue the Letters of Guardianship.

Once receiving these documents, you must take them to the clerk’s office to have them certified and filed.

Maintaining Guardian Status

Once you have completed the process and been appointed guardian, the court will send annual follow-up reports. This Confidential Guardianship Status Report must be filled out and returned to the court in a timely manner. If it is not, you could lose your guardian status.

So long as everything in the report is acceptable, the guardian does not need to do anything else until the following year when the next report arrives. However, if the responses raise any concern, the guardian may have to fill out additional, more frequent reports or speak with the judge in person.

Emergency Situations

If an emergency arises and there is an immediate need for a guardian to step in, you may file an ex parte petition for guardianship of the minor. This temporary allowance then remains in place until the general guardianship hearing.

Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich is available to help you through the guardianship process. Contact us today online or at (951) 506-6654 to get started.


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