When Does a California Court Appoint a Child Guardian?

When Does a California Court Appoint a Child Guardian

Child guardianships are established in California in both probate and juvenile dependency court proceedings. Guardianships are used to give someone the legal authority to tend to a child or to his or her property. The nature of the authority depends on the reason the guardianship is established and the court order.

Probate Guardianship

The first type of guardianship is a probate guardianship. A probate guardianship is set up when a child’s parents are not able to care for him or her. Here are some examples of reasons parents may not be able to take care of their child:

  • Serious physical or mental illness;
  • Military duty;
  • Substance addiction or inpatient rehabilitation;
  • Incarceration;
  • A history of child abuse; and
  • Death.

Probate guardianships may be over the child, the child’s property, or both.

Guardianships over the child that are established through the probate process do not terminate parental rights; in fact, the child’s parents may even receive visitation rights in a probate guardianship. However, the guardian receives all of the rights and responsibilities of a parent, including full legal and physical custody. Please see my earlier blog here for a detailed description of legal and physical custody.

A probate guardianship may give the guardian rights and responsibilities relating to a child’s property, also known as the child’s “estate.” This type of guardianship is usually set up when a child owns or inherits significant assets before he or she is 18 years old. The guardian’s role is to manage the child’s estate responsibly, with a very high degree of care. If the child has a responsible, living parent, the parent is usually appointed in this role.

Guardians established through the probate court must submit annual status reports to the court, and court volunteers visit the guardian and child periodically. In addition, a probate guardian over a child’s estate is required to submit regular accountings to the court regarding the child’s property.

Juvenile Dependency Guardianship

Guardianship may also be established through the juvenile dependency court when a child has been removed from his or her home due to child abuse or neglect or other dangerous conditions. This type of guardianship is only used as a last resort, when a damaged parent-child relationship cannot be repaired. Guardianships established through juvenile dependency court terminate parental rights and usually last until the child turns 18.

California laws direct judges to make rulings consistent with the best interest of children. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters, including guardianships. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can protect you and your children: (415) 293-8314.



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