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  • Carol Highfill

Difference Between Full and Limited Guardianship in California

When a person lacks the legal capacity to make decisions on their own behalf, they need someone who can make those decisions for them. Being under the age of 18 is such a legal incapacity. For most children, the decision maker is a parent. But if the parent

isn’t available, or capable of making those decisions, the child needs a legal guardian. That person may have a full or limited guardianship. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the difference between full and limited guardianship. A guardian is a legal adult to whom the probate court has given responsibility for the personal and physical well-being of another person, known as the ward. A ward may be a legally incapacitated adult, but for purposes of this discussion, we’ll be talking only about full and limited guardianship of a minor. Full Guardianship of a Minor. A California probate court can grant a full guardianship of a child to an adult with the interest in the minor’s welfare, usually a close relative. A parent, if living and competent to do so, may also consent to a full guardianship of their child. Any interested person can petition the court for appointment of a guardian. That includes the child, if they are at least 14 years of age. Circumstances in which a full guardian might be appointed include a suspension or termination of parental rights due to:

  • Death of the child’s parents

  • Death of the child’s custodial parent when the other parent does not have legal custody

  • Disappearance of the child’s parent(s)

  • Incarceration of the child’s parent(s)

  • A judicial determination of the mental incompetency of the parent(s)

  • Judgment of divorce or separate maintenance

  • Other court order (other than an order for a limited guardianship)

A full guardian of a minor in California has the same rights and responsibilities as a parent: care, custody, and control of the minor child. They may decide where the child will live, what education and medical care they will receive, what religion (if any) they will be raised in, and make the numerous day-to-day decisions parents make, Guardians are not, however, obligated to support the child with their own funds; they may petition for the biological parent or parents to provide support for the child. A full guardianship may continue until the minor turns 18; the guardian must file annual reports with the court regarding the child’s well-being, and notify the court of any change in the child’s address within 14 days of the move. Limited Guardianship of a Minor. A limited guardianship is appropriate if the child’s parent or parents who have custody consent to the suspension or termination of their rights as parents and consent to have a guardian appointed. The probate court must consent to a placement plan that is submitted to the court with the petition for limited guardianship. The placement plan must state the reason the parent or parents are seeking a limited guardianship for their child, as well as how long the proposed guardianship will be and who will be responsible for the child’s financial support. The placement plan must also provide for parenting time with the parents who are consenting to the guardianship. Particularly if the limited guardianship will be lengthy, the court or the parties may decide to modify the placement plans if needs change, The phrase “limited guardianship” refers more to the intended duration of the guardianship than to its scope, but there are a few things limited guardians cannot do that full guardians can. Specifically, a limited guardian cannot consent to the marriage of the minor or adoption or to the release of the minor child for adoption. Often, a limited guardianship represents formalized consent for an existing situation; for instance, a teenager who is having conflict with a parent might move in with a grandparent or aunt and uncle. The parent might consent to a limited guardianship in order to make it easier for the guardians to make decisions and take actions necessary to care for the child.

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