Family law encompasses a wide variety of issues related to marriage, divorce, custody arrangements, support obligations, domestic partnerships, domestic violence, and more. Another aspect of family law is guardianships. In general, a guardianship is when the court orders an individual who is not a child’s biological or legal parent to take custody of the child, manage the child’s affairs, or both. The process for appointing a guardian may be complicated, especially if there are people who wish to contest the appointment or contest the individual who will be the child’s guardian. At MacKenzie & Associates, our Alameda County guardianship attorneys provide compassionate and seasoned legal counsel to families in Hayward and elsewhere in the East Bay.The Function of Guardianships
The purpose of a guardianship is to provide an adult who is not the child’s parent with the authority to make decisions for the child and to take custody of the child. In most cases, guardianships are intended for minors, meaning children who are under the age of 18. If the child is an immigrant seeking special immigrant juvenile status, the guardianship may be pursued until the child is 21. A guardian must be appointed by the court, which requires a court proceeding. The proceeding may be initiated by the individual who wishes to be appointed as a guardian or who wishes to appoint another person as a guardian. There are different procedures that apply in the event that Child Protective Services is involved in the proceeding. The guardian does not need to be a family member but must show that they understand the responsibilities of a guardian and that they are prepared to take on those obligations.
Many people presume that a guardianship is comparable to an adoption. This is not the case. In an adoption proceeding, the biological parents’ rights related to the child are terminated permanently, and the adoptive parents take on the same rights and responsibilities that the biological parents had regarding the child. The court does not supervise adoptive families, and upon the adoptive parents’ death, the adopted child will inherit from the adoptive parents. In a guardianship, the biological or legal parents still retain parental rights and may ask the court to grant reasonable contact with the child. A guardianship may be terminated, particularly if the parents are able to show that they can care for the child. The court will supervise the guardianship on a periodic basis. Our guardianship lawyers can help Alameda County residents further understand the differences between a guardianship and an adoption.
Under California law, there are two primary types of guardianships. The first involves guardianship of the person, while the second involves guardianship of the estate. In the first category, the guardian assumes the same caretaking responsibilities as a parent, including the provision of food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, safety, and physical and emotional growth. The guardian is also required to supervise the child and may be held liable if the child commits any intentional actions that cause injuries or damage to other people.
A guardianship of the estate is more limited. It is usually created to provide oversight for the child’s property, money, and income until the child reaches the age of majority, 18. If the child inherits a large amount of money or assets, a guardianship of the estate may be appropriate. The responsibilities of a guardian of the estate include managing finances, making prudent investments, and carefully managing the child’s property. The guardianship does not apply to Social Security benefit payments to the child, welfare payments, or possessions that are relatively inexpensive.
When it comes to appointing a guardian of the person or a guardian of the estate, the court does not always appoint the same person. In some instances, two different people may be appointed to take on these roles.Discuss Your Situation with a Guardianship Attorney in Alameda County
If you are considering pursuing a guardianship or are otherwise involved in a guardianship matter, the knowledgeable Alameda County guardianship lawyers at MacKenzie & Associates can provide you with the legal counsel that you need. We understand that the family law system may be confusing, especially if this is the first time that you have been through the process. We can assist you with each step of the proceedings and make sure that you understand the scope of your legal rights. To set up a free phone consultation with a child custody lawyer, call us at 510-537-7200 or contact us online.