What is a Guardianship?

Guardianship is a court process in which someone other than a parent is given custody of a child or when a parent or other person is given authority over a child's property. The child, called the minor or ward, must be under the age of 18. A legal guardian is an adult the court chooses to be responsible for, and to care for a child, to manage the child's property, or both.

A guardianship of the estate allows the guardian to make financial decisions for a child, and is often filed when a minor is to receive a large monetary gift or inheritance.

Both parents and non-parents can become guardians of the person and/or the estate for children.

Are There Alternatives to Guardianship?

As an alternative to a guardianship, a Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit - external link may be completed. This form allows a relative to enroll a child in school and get medical treatment.

In lieu of a guardianship of the estate, you may ask the court to require the funds to be placed into a blocked account. Once the funds are placed into the blocked account, withdrawals are allowed only with prior court approval.

Where Should I File for Guardianship?

A Petition for Guardianship may be filed:

If there are prior family law custody orders or guardianship orders involving the minor, a petition for modification of those orders should be filed in the county where the orders were issued. Failure to file a petition where such orders exist may result in dismissal of your case. (See Probate Code §2203 - external link and Greene v. Superior Court (1951) 37 C2d 307)

If a minor does not reside in Contra Costa County or has just recently moved to Contra Costa County, a party to the proceeding such as a parent, sibling over the age of 12, or grandparent may petition the court to transfer the case to the county where the minor resides.

In addition, Contra Costa County may not be the best county to file a petition for guardianship if the minor does not reside in the county. The Probate Court typically requires the preparation of a report and recommendation on the petition before it will make a determination. (See Probate Code §1513 - external link) If the minor is not a resident of Contra Costa County, the case will take additional time to process. Court staff will attempt to obtain an investigative report from the appropriate authorities in the county where the minor resides. However, if the court cannot obtain the report, the court may require the petitioner to arrange for and to bear the expense of retaining a qualified social worker to investigate and prepare a report for the court's review and consideration.

In order to file a Guardianship petition in California, the child must reside in the state for at least six months before the petition is filed.

Help with Guardianships

Probate Facilitator

The Probate Facilitator is an attorney employed by the Court to assist parties who are representing themselves with procedural information in cases involving guardianship of the person. The Probate Facilitator conducts workshops and can also be reached by telephone at: 925-608-2066.