Under California probate law, a guardianship exists when the court appoints an adult who is not the child’s parent to care for the child. Legal guardians in California have the duty and authority to make decisions affecting the child’s care, medical treatment, and supervision of the child. For the purposes of guardianship, the courts will refer to the child as the ward.
If you or a loved one needs to speak with an attorney about a Sacramento guardianship issue, the Law Office of Daniel Hunt can help. The guardianship process can be complex and overwhelming. In some cases, the need for a guardian occurs suddenly and without much warning. Our attorneys have helped many clients with many different types of guardianship issues. Contact our Sacramento estate planning law firm today to schedule your initial consultation today.
What is the Difference Between Guardianship and Adoption?
In an adoption, the adopted child treated the same as a birth child in the eyes of the law. In an adoption, the court substitutes the birth parent or parent for the adopted parent or parents. Adoptive parents have all of the parental rights to which birth parents are entitled.
In a guardianship, the parents still maintain their legal rights. Parents can still ask the court to grant them reasonable contact with their children who are in the custody of a court-appointed guardian. Sometimes disputes arise between the court-appointed guardian and the parents. When this happens, our attorneys can help clients navigate any legal issues as best as possible.
Guardianship of the Person
When parents die or become incapacitated, the court will defer to their wishes as to who will be their guardians. However, when parents have not appointed who they would like to be their guardians, the court will appoint a guardian. When a court appoints someone as a guardian of the person, that person has a duty to take on the same responsibilities of care required by a parent. Courts have discretion when it comes to whether or not to appoint a guardian. Family court judges will only appoint a guardian when it is in the best interest of the child.
Guardians have full physical and legal custody of the child. They have a right to make all decisions about the following issues as they relate to the child:
- The child’s supervision
- The child’s care
- Physical growth
- Emotional growth
- Medical care
- Dental care
Guardianships typically end when the parents of the child are ready and able to care for their child once again. California courts supervise the guardianship process. Guardians often have physical and legal custody of the child in question. They must make decisions according to the best interests of the child, not according to their own interests.
Guardianship of the Estate
California courts also appoint guardians of estates. When a California court appoints someone as the guardian of the estate, he or she will be responsible for managing the child’s estate. The child’s estate is made up of the child’s income, investments, money, or any other property until the child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 years old.
Courts might appoint guardianship of the estate to an adult when a child inherits money but the parents are dead or absent. Typically, a court will appoint the surviving parent to be the guardian of the child’s estate. Guardianships of the estates of minors usually only happen when the minor’s personal and real property totals over $5,000 in value.
The Difference Between California Guardianships and Conservatorships
Courts appoint conservators for incapacitated adults, guardians are only appointed for minor children in the state of California. In California, a conservatorship occurs when a judge appoints a responsible organization or adult to care for an incapacitated adult. The guardian is called a conservator and the incapacitated adult is called the conservatee. Conservators have a duty to take care of the conservatee's finances and self-care. Courts exercise a large amount of supervision over conservatorships.
How can I Become a Guardian of a Minor?
If you are not a child’s parent, you can petition a court to make you their guardian. In order to be the guardian, you must be willing to tend to the child’s needs, interests, and daily care. Some guardianships include caring for the daily needs of a child and the child’s property or estate. In other cases, a judge may appoint a guardian who will only have custody of the child.
When courts grant a petition for guardianship, they issue a California Probate court order that legally places the child in the guardian’s care. The child will then move into the guardian’s home and the guardian will take physical custody of the child. If the biological parents are still alive, the court will suspend their rights and take away their custody.
A guardianship order from a California Probate court will supersede a custody order from a California Family Law court. This is because the guardian has the right to act on behalf of the child, and that right supersedes any custody agreements that might have been in place.
Essentially, the parent’s rights are put on hold, legally, during the guardianship. Courts only appoint a guardian when the situation warrants doing so. The judge must find that the parents taking custody would be detrimental and that it is in the best interest of the child to place him or her in the custody of the non-parent.
We can Help
The Sacramento guardianship lawyers at the Law Office of Daniel Hunt understand the importance of guardianship. Our lawyers have experience helping clients throughout the Sacramento area. Whether you have been appointed as a guardian, or you have legal issues involving the appointed guardian of your child, we can help. Contact our Sacramento law firm today to discuss how we can help you with your California guardianship matter.