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Joint Guardianship in California


If you have a terminal illness or disease, you are likely planning to have your family taken care of after you are personally unable to care for them. If you have children, one of the ways you can protect them into the future is by setting up a joint guardianship. An experienced San Jose family law attorney can help you set up joint guardianship so that you do not have to worry about your young ones after you are gone.

What is Joint Guardianship?

Guardianship occurs when a non-biological parent is legally responsible for a minor. Guardianship differs from custody because custody refers to which parent has legal responsibility over the child after a divorce or separation. According to the Alliance for Children’s Rights, 5.4 million children across the United States live with grandparents or other relatives who are the primary caregivers. Joint guardianship allows a parent who has an incurable illness to appoint a guardian for their child (assuming that the sick parent already has legal custody over the child). While the parent is still healthy enough, they make parenting decisions with the person named joint guardian. Later, once the parent has passed, the joint guardian will gain full custody of the child without another guardianship hearing. Unlike adoption, guardianship allows the sick parent to keep all the rights and duties of parenting for as long as they are able to do so.

My Relatives Have Agreed to Take Care of My Child Already. Why Do We Need Joint Guardianship?

You may already have verbal assurances from a relative that they will care for your child after you are no longer able to. It is still important to get this approved as a joint guardianship with the courts because, as outlined by the California Courts, this ensures that the court will not step in and name someone else guardian after you are gone. Furthermore, it gives the relative legal authority to make decisions around education, health care, and more. For instance, if a grandparent does not have legal guardianship, they may not be able to get the child on to their health care plan or consent to mental health services for the child.

What to Look for in a Guardian 

When deciding who should be joint guardian with you, consider the following:

  • Do they have matching values to you?
  • Do their living arrangements allow for them to take primary guardianship over your child?
  • How old are they?
  • Do they have prior parenting experience?
  • Are they financially stable?
  • Will you be able to make joint decisions alongside them until the time comes when they are the primary guardian?

Talk to a Family Law Attorney Today 

A joint guardianship can create a smooth transition in parenting during a time when your child is under a lot of duress and you are no longer able to help. It is best to set up the guardianship when you still have time to communicate your wishes to the guardian of your choice and make sure all the court paperwork goes through properly. A San Jose family attorney at Foster Hsu, LLP can help you through the process. Call us at 408-841-7200 to schedule a consultation.


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