Law 101

Guardianship

Guardianship is a court proceeding in which a judge gives a responsible adult custody of a minor child, power over the child’s estate, or both. Guardianships are often handled in probate court, but if a child is a dependent of the juvenile court, only the juvenile court may appoint a legal guardian for that child. Both types are discussed briefly below, although the resources recommended on this page primarily address probate guardianships.

Only minors may be the subject of a guardianship. If you need to obtain power over a disabled adult, a disabled adult’s estate, or both, you will need to seek a Conservatorship. For more information, see our Law 101 page on Seniors and Disability.

Guardianship Basics

Probate Guardianship

There are two types of guardianship of a minor child: guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate (property). One guardian can be responsible for both the child and the child’s estate. A guardian of the person is responsible for the child’s care and welfare when there is no parent willing or able to do so. The judge may appoint a guardian based on nomination or the parents’ wishes; petition(s) for appointment of guardianship; court investigations; the child’s wishes (if 12 or older); and, ultimately, the child’s best interests. Since a guardian has the legal right to make decisions on behalf of the child, compliance with statutory requirements is very important. After notice is given to other relatives or persons of interest, a court investigator will conduct interviews and submit a recommendation to the court. The court will hold a hearing in which the judge may or may not appoint a guardian, depending on the child’s best interests.

Juvenile Dependency Guardianship

When a child becomes a dependent of the court, a guardianship is possible depending on the particulars of the child’s case, the child’s needs, and at what point in the case the petition for guardianship is filed. After a child is taken from his or her parents, the juvenile court holds hearings every six months to evaluate placement options. Delinquency cases work in much the same way. To ask the court for guardianship of a dependent of the court, you may talk to the social worker or probation officer in charge, or write a letter to the juvenile court judge, describing your relationship with the child, how long you’ve known the child, and your reasons for seeking guardianship. For more information, see the California Courts Self-Help Website on Juvenile Court Guardianships.

Community Groups

For Help
Guardianship Workshop – Civil Self-Help Center VLSP Guardianship Assistance
Family Court Probate Court
Sacramento County Superior Court, Family and Probate Division

Forms

Common Questions

Father and kid on bike. Caring for Another's Child A Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit can be an alternative to legal guardianship.
Youth leaving with suitcase Emancipation of Children Emancipation is a legal way for children to become adults before they turn eighteen.

Related Websites

Keyboard Guardianship: Sacramento Court
Computer mouse Guardianship: California Courts

Videos

Petition for Guardianship of the Person in Sacramento
guardianship video art Applying for Guardianship (Screencast Series)
Becoming a Guardian Solano County Superior Court
Guardianship Clinic