In most situations, a child’s parents are both capable and willing to make important decisions on behalf of their child. In situations when that is not the case, another adult may have to step in and act as a guardian for the child. This is easier said than done, even when it is a family member seeking to help him or her.

Appointing a guardian for a minor child is appropriate when a child no longer has a parent who can protect his or her interests. This may be because the parents passed away, are in jail or are otherwise mentally unable to care for the needs of their children. If this is happening to a minor child in your California family, you may want to learn more about how the guardianship process works.

Who can be a guardian?

In some cases, the family may appoint a person to act as guardian for a minor child. If there is no one specifically named for this role, the court may appoint a person to act in this capacity. This person must be willing to act with the best interests of minor in mind at all times, and options include:

  • A person named by the minor child, known as the ward
  • One of the parents of the ward or a family member
  • Someone familiar with the minor or a state employee

The court typically prefers to appoint a family member as a guardian. This is an important responsibility, and it is one that the prospective guardian should carefully consider. A person cannot simply ignore this role, as the guardian is responsible for both the financial well-being of the child and his or her physical well-being. Some of the specific things a guardian will have to do include:

  • Help apply for public assistance for the minor
  • Provide a legal residence so the minor can attend public school
  • Seek public housing assistance for the minor, if needed
  • File a lawsuit on behalf of the child if it is necessary to do so

If you seek the role as guardian for a minor child, it is important to consider that guardianship typically terminates when that minor turns 18 years old. However, you may have to continue in that role if the court finds that he or she is not capable of handling legal and financial matters without assistance. 

Learn about your options

Guardianship is a complex legal issue, and it is not something your family has to deal with alone. If you believe you need to seek guardianship or you want to learn more about this process, you will find it helpful to start with a complete evaluation of your case.