When guardianship is the right thing

When a minor (younger than age 18) commits a crime in California, he/she goes to juvenile delinquency court. The juvenile delinquency system is part of the California civil law system - as opposed to the criminal law system. This is because courts and law enforcement prefer rehabilitating minors instead of punishing them.

When a minor is convicted (called ‘sustained petition’) in juvenile court, the conviction can be used as a "strike" for California’s three strikes law. Though the main purpose of the juvenile delinquency system is to help minors change behaviors to avoid future “strikes,” research shows a positive adult influence can impact them more effectively and positively.

If you are a grandparent or relative of a minor, you can apply for legal guardianship. If you believe the minor’s parents have issues that negatively impact the minor’s safety or proper care, the court is can grant you legal guardianship. When a minor is convicted - or even arrested - the Child Protection Services could get involved and possibly take the minor into custody unless a family member steps in.

Legal guardianship is a court order that says you are in charge of taking care of the minor.

If you meet the residential requirement, you can file for a probate guardianship in your local Superior Court Probate Department. In some cases, even if the minor has not been in the state the requisite time period, you can still file for emergency court jurisdiction. The court can issue temporary guardianship orders.

You can seek a temporary and permanent guardianship. You must notice the child’s parents, the child’s siblings over the age of 12, and the grandparents. Some notices must be by personal service and others by mail. The rules for notice can be tricky depending on the case. An experienced attorney can help you with this.

Once the court grants you guardianship, you can decide where the minor lives and goes to school, and can make decisions about the minor’s health care.

You are in control of the minor and you do not have to worry about Child Protective Services taking the minor from your custody. As the guardianship proceeds, the court will assign a social worker to make an investigation as to the welfare of the child.

Guardianships can lead to adoption of the minor after a couple of years if the guardians wish to pursue adoption.

Financial considerations

Even if there is a guardian, the parents must support their child financially. As guardian, you can choose to support the minor by yourself, or if you want help, ask for welfare or other help.

There are different kinds of financial help a guardian can get:

  • Welfare: If you are related to the child, you can get welfare even if you do not need the money. You can also get welfare if you are not related to the child but you need financial help.
  • Foster care payments: Some guardians can get foster care payments. These pay more money than welfare.
  • Kin-GAP (Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payment Program): You can get Kin-GAP if you are related to a child in a dependency case. This pays the same amount of money as foster care payments.
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income): If the child has a disability, he or she may be able to get SSI or state disability benefits. You can use this money to take care of the child.
  • Medi-Cal: Guardians can get Medi-Cal for the child and for themselves if they are financially needy and are related to the child.
  • Guardianship is complicated and important to the minor’s development and growth. We are experienced juvenile and family attorneys can help you navigate these complex legal systems so you can focus on your family.