Parents with special-needs children may sometimes claim they need to seek guardianship of their child when they become adults, but California uses slightly different terminology for this kind of situation. In a situation where someone’s physical or mental disability leads to another person seeking control over their financial or legal decision-making, California calls that a general conservatorship

Children with special needs will eventually become adults with special needs, but things can quickly become complicated when a child with special needs reaches their 18th birthday. If their parents don’t take any special actions, they may no longer have the right to even hear about a child’s medical treatment, to say nothing of their authority over financial decisions and medical choices. 

If you believe that your child will not be able to manage their affairs on their own when they reach adulthood, seeking a conservatorship may be in the best interest of everyone in your family.

You will need to show the courts that your child needs help

It is possible for people with a wide range of disabilities to have some degree of independence once they reach adulthood. Because of that potential, the courts won’t simply grant a conservatorship just because of a diagnosis with a condition like Down Syndrome or autism. 

Instead, you will need to demonstrate how the condition limits your child’s ability to care for themselves and fulfill the basic obligations of living independently. From difficulty managing a household due to problems with executive functioning to an inability to read or properly communicate with other adults, there are many behaviors and symptoms of your child’s condition that can help convince the courts of the need for a conservatorship to protect your child as they get older. 

Even with a conservatorship, you can still help your adult child seek and maintain some degree of independence, although your position as their conservator will help them avoid common legal and financial pitfalls.