Frequently Asked Questions about Guardianships

For general information about where child custody and guardianship matters are heard, see: Child Custody and Guardianship Matters Juvenile, Family, and Probate Courts – General Information (SDSC Form #ADM-411)

What is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a court proceeding in which a Judge gives someone who is not the parent:

  • Custody of a child under the age of 18. This type of Guardianship is called "Guardianship of the Person".
  • Power to manage the child's income, money, or other property until the child turns 18. This type of Guardianship is called "Guardianship of the Estate".

Guardianship of the Person

A petition for guardianship of the person is filed when a minor child is living with an adult who is not the parent and the adult needs the legal right to make decisions on behalf of the child. When a guardian of the person is appointed, the guardian is awarded custody of the child and the natural parents no longer have the right to determine where the child will live or how he or she will be educated. Instead, the guardian has those rights, including the responsibility to determine medical treatment for the child.

Guardianship of the Estate

A guardianship of the estate is set up to manage a child's income, money, or other property until the child turns 18. A child may need a guardian of the estate if he or she inherits money or assets. In most cases, the court appoints the surviving parent to be the guardian of the child's estate. A Guardianship of the Estate is not needed when the child receives social security benefits or TANF/CalWorks (welfare).

What is a Temporary Guardianship?

A temporary guardianship may be requested when a minor needs immediate help. A general guardianship must be set for hearing before or at the same time as the request for a temporary guardianship.

What are the alternatives to a Guardianship?

If the sole purpose of requesting Guardianship is to enroll the minor in school or to authorize medical treatment, a caregiver may complete a Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit.  The affidavit authorizes the caregiver whether related or unrelated, to enroll the minor in school. If the caregiver is a relative, the affidavit may also be used to consent to medical/dental treatment. Acceptance of the affidavit is at the discretion of the school and or medical/dental provider.

What type of investigation is involved with becoming a Guardian?

Probate Code §1513 requires that, unless waived by the court, in each proposed appointment of Guardian, an investigation be made and a report submitted to the Court. These investigations will be done by Family Court Services (FCS), Health and Human Services (HHSA) or the Probate Court Investigator (CI) as follows:

Guardianship of: Proposed Guardian: Agency:
1. Person or Person/Estate Relative FCS
2. Person or Person/Estate Non-Relative HHSA
3. Estate Only Relative or Non-Relative CI

Forms for filing for Guardianship?

The following forms are required to start the Guardianship proceedings:

The court offers a self-help packet for persons seeking Guardianship of the Person Only. The packet can be found here.

If filing for Guardianship of the Estate, you must also submit the following:

If the Court grants your Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor (JC Form #GC-210), you must complete and submit the following forms along with a copy of each form and a self-addressed and stamped envelope:

If the Court grants your Petition for Appointment of Temporary Guardian (JC Form #GC-110), you must complete and submit following forms along with a copy of each form and a self-addressed and stamped envelope:

Guardianship Filing Fees

There are courts costs – the court filing fee and the investigation fee. The current fee amounts can be found on the Court's Fee Schedule.

If you cannot afford to pay the fee, you can request a Fee Waiver from the Court. The Fee Waiver Packet – Guardianships and Conservatorships (SDSC Form #PKT-041) must be completed and filed with your Petition.

What do I have to do after I fill out the forms?

  • Once all the forms have been completed, make one copy of each form and bring them all to the Probate Business Office. Click here to view business hours and location.
  • The clerk will keep the original forms and return the copies to you. Your copies will be file stamped and a hearing date will be scheduled.
  • Serve a copy of the filed paperwork upon the parents and relatives as required by law. Information regarding service can be found here.
  • Review the Instructions to Proposed Guardians Re: Guardianship Investigations (SDSC Form #PR-061A).
  • Review the Probate Examiner Notes two weeks prior to hearing. Information regarding the Probate Examiner Notes can be found here.

Guardianship Timeline

Day 1 Day 1-10 Day 1-15 3 weeks prior to hearing 2 weeks prior to hearing 1-2 weeks prior to hearing Day 60-90
File Your Petition Schedule
Submit Order & Letters Check Examiner Notes Clear Defects Hearing Date

Note: These are approximate days. Check your hearing date for accuracy. Also, this timeline does not include duties imposed on a Guardian of the Estate after appointment. See Duties of Guardian (JC Form #GC-248) for more information.

What if need legal advice?

Contact an attorney of your choice. If you need help locating an attorney in San Diego County, you may contact the Lawyer Referral & Information Service of the San Diego County Bar Association at 1-800-464-1529 or 619-231-8585. Their website can also be found here.

General Legal Information & Assistance Programs

  • Family Law Facilitator's Office - Guardianship Assistance Program
    Schedule an appointment online, download the required forms and receive a checklist for the guardianship workshop here. You may also reach the facilitator by phone at (619) 844-2869.
  • San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program
    This private, non-profit legal organization offers a guardianship clinic on a first come, first served basis to income qualified individuals. For more information, click here.
  • California Courts Self-Help Center
    The California Court's website offers self-help material for guardianship cases. For more information, click here.