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When is a guardianship in a child’s best interests?

In a perfect world, both parents of every child would have the capacity to look after their children's needs and see to their proper development. Unfortunately, we live in a society where overseas military service, incarceration, substance abuse, mental illness and other factors may deprive children of having meaningful and beneficial relationships with their parents.

Thankfully, California courts currently recognize two different types of custody arrangements for non-parents. Basically, a court can order a person who is not the child's parent to step in place of unavailable or incapacitated parents and make decisions on behalf of the children's best interests.

A guardianship of the person can occur when a court orders someone other than the child's parent to take actual physical custody of a child. In these types of situations, the guardian will have the same legal authority and obligations as a regular parent. Among other things, these guardians are required to provide a residence for the child, food and clothing and ensure that they receive adequate medical and dental care. These guardians can be any qualified person capable of carrying out these obligations. Grandparents, distant relatives or even friends of the child's parents are some good examples of potential guardians.

Another type of guardianship recognized under California law is known as a guardianship of the estate. These types of guardians are entrusted to manage the financial and real estate arrangements of a child until he or she reaches the age of 18. This can be particularly helpful in situations where a child inherits a great deal of money or a significant parcel of land.

Typically, attorneys with experience in dealing with these types of guardianships are the best choice to administer this level of care. That's because there is a fiduciary duty between the guardian of the estate and the child. Put simply, these types of guardians are held to the highest legal standard of care precisely because the children rely on them to make smart investments and otherwise make financial decisions that are in the children's best interests.If you know of a child that could benefit from a guardianship, it may be worth your while to consult a family law attorney experienced with California's guardianship provisions.

Source: California Courts-The Judicial Branch of California, "Guardianship," accessed June 25, 2015

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