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The beginning of the legal guardian process in California

Those who wish to become the guardian of a child in California must go through a process that includes many steps. When ready to apply for guardianship, one must read the Guardianship Pamphlet and fill out a number of forms first. These forms might include the Petition for Appointment of Guardian of the Person, Letters of Guardianship, Notice of Hearing Guardianship or Conservatorship and local forms. These forms should be filed in the county the child lives, but one has to file the forms in the county a custody order exists if there is already a custody order.

It is important to have all forms reviewed before filing them because a case can take more time if there are paperwork errors, and a family law facilitator, a court's self-help center or an attorney may be able to assist one when filling out the forms. One might need the services of an attorney anyway if the proposed guardian does not live in California, the child is Native American or has special needs or if multiple cases involving the child are happening simultaneously.

After filing forms with the court clerk's office, one has to give notice to certain relatives and state agencies. The potential guardian cannot do this, and one may have to locate these relatives.

While filling out forms and giving notice can be complicated and take time, it is only part of the guardianship process, which may also include meeting with a court investigator and court hearings. There are also instances when one may need to be conservator or gain power of attorney for an adult loved one. In situations where an adult can no longer make health care decisions or a child was left property, one may need to consider filing for guardianship.

Source: California Courts, "Becoming a Guardian", October 29, 2014

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