What is legal guardianship?

By | July 9, 2015

Most family law matters involve custody disputes between the children’s parents. The ultimate question is which parent is it in the best interests of the children to live with? For the most part the dispute is between parents who could not be said to be unfit parents. However, in the case of a guardianship, that is exactly what is being alleged against the parents – that they are unfit – and a third party is seeking custody of the child or children. If successful, the person seeking guardianship of the child would become the child’s legal guardian, and the child would technically be the person’s ward (as every Batman fan probably knows, Dick Grayson is Bruce Wayne’s ward). A guardianship can be temporary or permanent, and a guardianship could be a guardianship of the person or the estate, or both. A guardianship of the person allows the guardian to make decisions about the child’s health, welfare, and religious upbringing, but not control their bank accounts. So if Dick Grayson had an insurance settlement due to the tragic death of his family members, the Flying Graysons, Bruce Wayne would not be able to manage Dick’s money and parley it into a fortune (or squander it on Batarangs) unless he also was the guardian of the estate of Dick Greyson.

Most people do not have philanthropic billionaires lining up to become their legal guardians, and most commonly it is a relative who is stepping up to care for the child when the child’s parents are out of the picture. Often it is due to some problem the parents are facing, such as being in jail, or having a drug addiction that makes the parents leave the children alone for long periods, or sometimes the parents just abandon the children and disappear. In situations like these, the person seeking a guardianship does so because someone has to be able to make decisions for the child, or it’s necessary to be able to apply for public benefits for the child, such as CalOptima or TANF (food stamps/cash aid).

If you are in a situation where you need to obtain a guardianship, you should seek the help of a qualified attorney. Call our office at 714-900-3627 for a free initial consultation.