Guardianship cases, like other areas of family law, can be complex and emotionally charged. There are many different parties holding conflicting beliefs about a minor child’s interests. Having a qualified lawyer on your side can be crucial for achieving ideal outcomes for the vulnerable children involved.
Guardianship is a special legal appointment, somewhat similar to a custody order. This allows the court to grant a non-parental party (e.g., a grandparent or a child welfare agency) the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of a minor. This transfers most parental rights and responsibilities to this guardian. However, the parent(s) will usually maintain certain limited rights and responsibilities. These include contributing financially to the child’s care and participating in a reasonable, court-approved visitation schedule.
Whether you are seeking to become a guardian, or challenging an existing court-ordered guardianship, you will want to consider partnering with a knowledgeable, experienced attorney. The Edgar & Dow can guide you through the complexities of California’s family courts. We can help you fully understand the various laws and procedures that govern the legal concept of guardianship in California.
In California, one avenue for establishing legal guardianship is codified in the Probate Code. This outlines the legal process for establishing and terminating non-parental guardianships.
The two main types of legal guardianship in California are dependency guardianships and probate guardianships. Both are used to protect children whose parents are unable or unwilling to adequately care for them. The two types of guardianship cases are similar in both principle and outcome. However, the cases are handled by different branches of the court system.
This type of guardianship is granted by the dependency court, often pursuant to a CPS (child protective services) case.
“Dependency” is a claim made by the state or a third party (like a grandparent or doctor) that a parent is incapable of caring for their minor child. Once the proper petitions have been filed and approved, the dependency court has exclusive jurisdiction over such a child. Parental rights are severely curtailed, and the judge’s determination must be followed by all parties.
The court will take great care in vetting and approving guardians before ordering a dependency guardianship. A dependency guardianship case requires the court to obtain a written assessment of the prospective guardian(s) drafted by a qualified social worker. The court will also fully review the existing relationship between the child and their parent(s) before making any decisions. Children capable of speaking for themselves can also give the court a statement.
There are two types of circumstances under which a dependency guardianship might be established:
In California, a guardianship can also be ordered through the probate court system. A probate guardianship case begins with a petition filed by a concerned adult (often a relative) on behalf of an at-risk minor. Children 12 and older additionally have the right to file their own probate petition, though it must then be approved by the court like any other.
Like many legal processes, a probate guardianship case begins with a great deal of paperwork. A good lawyer will be a key asset in ensuring all your paperwork is completed and filed correctly.
Like a dependency guardianship, a probate guardianship case will then require an extensive investigation. The court will fully review the circumstances surrounding both the biological parents and the proposed guardian(s).
In certain circumstances, this investigation can be waived. This allows the child to be placed in a more stable situation as soon as possible. This contrasts with dependency guardianship cases, where the investigation is mandatory.
Court-sponsored reunification services typically only apply to dependency cases. These are not typically available to parents involved in probate guardianship proceedings. Probate guardianships are a versatile and powerful legal tool that can help invested adults ensure a child’s needs are met. Sometimes they can even lead to permanent adoption.
The legal guardian of a minor child takes on many rights and responsibilities typically reserved for parents. However, there are others that are specific to guardianships:
A: Power of attorney is a legal instrument granting an individual the authority to make decisions on behalf of another person. It is often used to prepare for medical contingencies or as part of an estate plan. The scope of a power of attorney document can be limited to specific decisions or transfer all legal authority to another party. In contrast, guardianship is a court-appointed legal process. It grants an individual the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of a minor child whose parents are unable to care for them. The guardianship process is typically far more complex than filing powers of attorney.
A: The guardianship process in California can take months to complete. The exact timeframe of each case will vary. It will depend on the complexity of the circumstances and the workload at the local court. It is advisable to work with a knowledgeable guardianship attorney. It is especially beneficial to find one who has extensive experience with the Corona dependency and probate courts. This can greatly expedite the process.
A: In California, there are two types of guardianship:
Both are powerful legal tools that can protect the interests of vulnerable children when their parents are unable to provide adequate care. However, each is managed by separate areas of the court system. A dependency guardianship is usually sought by CPS. A concerned adult or a child 12 years old or older can petition for probate guardianship.
A: To establish guardianship in Corona, California, you must first file a petition and supporting paperwork with either the dependency court or probate court. You will also need to provide notice to relevant parties, attend hearings, and work with the court to meet their requirements. The process can be challenging and emotionally demanding. It is recommended that you work with an experienced guardianship lawyer. They can provide powerful legal advice and direct support at every step.
A: Guardianship and adoption are both legal processes that transfer the care of a minor to someone other than their parent. However, there are key differences. In a guardianship case, the court grants an individual the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of a minor who is not their own child. Adoption terminates the birth parents’ rights entirely, granting the adoptive parents permanent legal and physical custody of the child.
Guardianship cases require a qualified family law attorney who has intimate, in-depth experience with California’s guardianship procedures. Working with an experienced Corona lawyer can help you achieve the most positive outcome for any type of guardianship case. Let a professional handle the legal tedium while you focus on supporting the minor child who needs you. If you have any questions or concerns about guardianship, custody, child adoption, or family law matters in Corona, CA, contact the Edgar & Dow for a no-obligation consultation.
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