Q: What is guardianship under California law?
A: Guardianship, according to the California Courts, is a situation in which a court orders someone other than a child’s parent or parents to care for the child in one of three ways:
· To have custody of the child and care for his or her physical well being; or
· To manage the child’s estate (in other words, the property of the child); or
· Both to have custody of the child and to manage his or her property.
Q: What is the difference between a guardianship and an adoption?
A: It is important to know that guardianship and adoption are two very different situations under the law. The primary difference is that, with a guardianship, the child’s parent or parents still retain parental rights over the child. As such, the parent can ask the court to have reasonable contact with his or her child. In an adoption, however, parental rights are permanently terminated. As such, the legal relationship between the child and the adoptive parents is a permanent one, and as far as the law is concerned, it looks just like the relationship between a child and his or her birth parents.
The role of the court also differs during and after a guardianship and an adoption. During the period of guardianship, the court can supervise the guardian. In addition, the court can end a guardianship if the child’s parent or parents are able to take care of the child. After an adoption, however, the court does not supervise adoptive families and cannot make the decision to reverse an adoption if the parents become able to care for the child.
Q: Why should I consider guardianship and custody of a child?
A: Even if you’re a busy professional in the San Diego area, you might know that your sibling cannot care for his or her child for the time being, and you might be willing to act as a guardian. Or, you might be in a similar situation with a family friend. Some reasons that a parent might not be able to care for his or her child include but are not limited to:
· Having a serious mental or physical illness;
· Needing to go overseas for military service;
· Needing to enter a rehabilitation program for a specific duration;
· Dealing with a drug or alcohol problem; or
· Unable to take care of the child for another reason.
Guardians of the person often include some of the following:
· Sisters and brothers;
· Aunts and uncles;
· Friends of the family; and
· Other relatives.
Q: Why should I consider guardianship of a child’s estate?
A: Many of our clients have extensive experience in finance, and a guardianship of the estate allows a person other than the child’s parents to manage the child’s income, money, or other property until the child turns 18 years old. If the child of someone you know inherited substantial money or other assets, you may be uniquely suited to serve as a guardian in this capacity.
According to California law, guardians of the estate are required to do the following:
· Manage the child’s money;
· Make smart investments with the child’s money; and
· Carefully manage the child’s property.