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A guardian is an adult who is legally responsible for the care of a minor. To become a guardian in California you must be appointed by the court. There are basically two types of guardianships, “guardianship of the person,” which is legal responsibility for a minor, and “guardianship of the estate,” which is legal responsibility to manage a child’s assets. In many cases, people only choose to obtain a guardianship of the person (unless a minor has assets over $5,000).

A guardianship is not an adoption. In an adoption, you are assuming the legal equivalent of a parent/child relationship, as if the minor was your natural child. Under a guardianship, a person has the responsibility of caring for the minor and may make decisions regarding health care, education, and other issues while the guardianship is in place. The minor is also often eligible for medical coverage as the guardian’s dependent. A guardianship will usually remain in place until the child turns 18, unless the court determines that the guardianship is no longer in the child’s best interest.

Adoption is the process where a person permanently takes on all rights and responsibilities from the biological parents. Unlike a guardianship, an adoption is intended to make a permanent change in the legal status of a child’s parents.

A caregiver and legal guardian are also different. A caregiver cannot usually make medical decisions, education decisions, or other legal decisions for a child. A caregiver sometimes can act as guardian for a very short period of time if the child’s parents sign a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit or a Guardianship Authorization Affidavit. These forms give another person permission to make decisions about the child’s education and medical care. The forms are normally completed if the decisions are only going to be made for a very short period of time. If a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit or Guardianship Authorization Affidavit is going to be used the parties must be mindful that many schools and medical facilities will not accept those forms. Those forms also will not often work to obtain medical insurance for a child.

We can help you decide if a Guardianship, Adoption, or Caregiver role would be best for you and the child’s individual circumstances.