Home » Ask The County Law Librarian – Guardianship

Ask The County Law Librarian – Guardianship

Q. Hi Law Librarian,

I have had custody of my niece since she was an infant. She is just turning four years old. I haven’t done anything legally because I hoped her parents would get their act together but realistically that is not going to happen any time soon. I will be enrolling her in school soon and I want to have legal authority over her. Is that a Guardianship? What’s involved with that?


A. Hi Cori,

Guardianship is a court process by which a person other than a parent is given custody of a child or authority over a child’s property. Appointment as guardian requires the filing of a petition and approval by the court. Specific persons must be given notice of the petition before the court can hear the case.

Relatives, friends of the family, or other interested persons may be considered as potential legal guardians.

Some questions you may want to ask yourself before you file:
o Is a guardianship really necessary?
o Have you considered alternatives?
o Do the parents consent to the guardianship?
o Without parental consent, is there enough evidence for you to prove the need for a guardianship?

Alternatives to guardianship include:
Private agreements: You can make a private agreement with the child’s parents to provide care for the child. A written agreement can be made showing that you have “custody” of the child with the parents consent. Of course this type of agreement can be revoked by the parents at any given time.
Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit: California law allows a person who is related to a child to fill out this affidavit.  It allows the person to enroll the child in school and to get medical treatment.

The law library has a book in plain English titled: The Guardianship Book For California by nolo.com  The Sacramento County Public Law Library just started offering a low cost Guardianship workshop.

Best wishes!

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email sacpress@saclaw.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian

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