Sometimes when parents are incapable of raising their children, other adults can step in to provide care. But if an adult wants to legally retain custody of and raise a child that's not his own, he must petition the state to be named the child's legal guardian. Once a legal guardianship is established by the state, the guardian essentially has all the rights and responsibilities that would normally be afforded to the child's parents.
Obtain the petition forms and fill them out. To file for guardianship of a minor in California, you'll need to complete a GC-210(P) form. If also filing for guardianship of the child's estate, you'll additionally have to fill out a GC-210 form. Both forms can be obtained from local Superior Court branches within the state or downloaded from the California court system's official website (courtinfo.ca.gov).
Submit the forms to the appropriate court, along with any required fees. Return the paperwork to the clerk at the California Superior Court branch closest to where the petitioner lives. The case will then be assigned to a judge who will review the documents, and the court will set a hearing date. After the date is set, a GC-020 notice form will be mailed to the petitioner with the time, date and courtroom where the hearing will be held. The notice doesn't require you to appear in court, but you can choose to attend if you wish.
Notify the child's parents of the guardianship hearing date if the parents are still in the child's life. State law requires that guardianship petitioners serve notice to the parents and any other person who has a right under the law to be notified about any hearing times and dates regarding the custody matter. However, the law also says that petitioners themselves can't serve notice; they have to arrange to have someone else do it, then have that person sign a proof of service form and have it returned to the court.
Submit to a court investigation if the judge deems it necessary to investigate all parties involved before issuing his decision. In this case, you and any other parties deemed essential to the case will be contacted by a court investigator. The investigator will look into the case and file a report and recommendation with the court.
Abide by the judge's ruling and court stipulations. If the judge rules against your guardianship petition, do not disregard the ruling and attempt to assume an illegal guardianship of the child. Or, if the judge approves the petition, you must adhere to all rules and stipulations he places on your guardianship. Any violations could put your custody of the child in jeopardy.