Start a guardianship case

To ask to become a guardian, you fill out and file papers in court. 

Before you start

There are a lot of forms to fill out. Consider getting free help at your court.

Each court has a Self-Help Center where you can get free help with court forms and answers to questions about the legal process. Many of these Self-Help Centers have staff that can help you with guardianship cases. They may also have workshops and online programs to help you fill out your forms more easily. 

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You may need help from a lawyer if: the parents object to the guardianship, you live outside California, there are other legal cases involving the child (like an adoption or custody case), the child has a physical or intellectual disability, or the child is Native American (you will need to follow federal laws).

Think about who will be the petitioner

Often, the person who wants to be appointed guardian is the petitioner on the case. If more than one person wants to be appointed guardian, it is simpler if one person is the petitioner. The petitioner can also ask the court to appoint someone else as guardian. For example, a child's parent or even the child if at least 12 years old, can be the petitioner asking for an adult, like a grandparent, to be appointed guardian for the child.

How to start a guardianship case

  • Get the address of the court where you will file the case

    You will need the address of the court to put on the papers you file. Generally, you must file the papers in the court in the county where the child lives. If there's already a court case about custody of the child, you may need to file in that court even if the child has since moved out of that county.

    Find a court's address. You will need the address of the courthouse that handles guardianship cases. Most courts handle guardianship cases at the courthouse where they handle other probate cases, but some courts handle them at the family or juvenile courthouse. Check the court’s website to find out.

  • Fill out forms

    • Petition for Appointment of Guardian of the Person (form GC-210(P)

      Fill out a Petition. If there's more than one petitioner, each one must sign. If the child is 12 or older, they can sign too, or file the Petition by themselves

      If you are also asking to be a guardian of the child's estate, fill out a Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor (form GC-210) instead. This website does not cover guardianships of the estate, so you should talk to a lawyer if you have questions about that type of guardianship.
    • Guardianship Petition--Child Information Attachment (form GC-210(CA))

      Fill out one attachment for each child. Attach it to the Petition.

    • Indian Child Inquiry Attachment (form ICWA-010a)

      Fill out one attachment for each child. Attach it to the Petition.

    • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (form FL-105/GC-120)

      If there is more than one child, you can include them on the same form. If there are more than two children, you can use attachment form FL-105(A)/GC-120(A).

    • Confidential Guardian Screening Form (form GC-212)

      Fill out a screening form. The information on this form will be confidential. Everyone asking to be appointed guardian must fill out a separate form. 

    • If required by your court, Consent of Proposed Guardian (form GC-211)

      Fill out and sign item 1. Many courts do not require this form if you are asking the court to appoint yourself as the guardian. 

    • Notice of Hearing--Guardianship or Conservatorship (form GC-020)

      Fill out the caption and #1 of the Notice. Also, fill out the names and addresses of the relatives who can be served by mail on page two. Attach Proof of Personal Service (form GC-020(P)) with the information of the relatives, like the parents, who must be served in person. When you file the form, the clerk will write in the hearing date on the front.

    • Duties of Guardian (form GC-248)

      Read carefully, date, and sign. All proposed guardians must sign.

    • Letters of Guardianship (form GC-250)

      Only fill out the caption. The court will keep this form or will return it to you to hold on to until the court date. The court clerk will fill it out based on what the judge orders.

    • Order Appointing Guardian or Extending Guardianship of the Person (form GC-240

      Only fill out the caption. The court will keep this form or will return it to you to hold on to until the court date. Then, the judge will fill it out and sign it if they appoint a guardian.

    If you want the court to appoint someone else (not you) as a guardian, they'll need to sign some of the forms instead of you.
    The person you want to become the guardian should complete the Confidential Guardian Screening Form (form GC-212) instead of you. They will also need to sign a Duties of Guardian (form GC-248). If required by your court, fill out and sign item 1 in Consent of Proposed Guardian (form GC-211).  Many courts do not require this form if the person asking to be appointed a guardian is one of the petitioners.

    If you need a fee waiver, fill out a fee waiver application. 

    There's a $225 fee to file a petition for appointment of a guardian of the person. The fee is $435 if the petition is to also appoint a guardian of the estate, or only the estate. In a few counties, the fee for these filings is $35-$50 more. If the child can't afford the fee, you fill out more forms to ask for a fee waiver. The fee waiver is based on the child's income, not the income of the petitioner or proposed guardian.
  • If there's an emergency

    It will take at least a month, usually longer, for the court to make a decision on you becoming a guardian. If there's an emergency and you need to act as guardian right away, you can file additional papers when you file your petition to be appointed guardian, or afterward, asking to be appointed temporary guardian. You will still have to do all the other forms listed in Step 1 as well as the ones in this step. You cannot ask for a temporary guardianship by itself.

    With a temporary guardianship petition, the court clerk will set you a court date a lot sooner so the judge can decide whether to appoint a temporary guardian before a full investigation is complete. This is only temporary. It ends once the judge makes a decision at a late court date after the investigation is complete. 

    Keep in mind that if the emergency comes up after you already filed for general guardianship but haven't been appointed yet, you can still follow these instructions to add a temporary guardianship request. 

    You can ask your court's Self-Help Center or a probate court clerk to get a general idea of how long it usually takes to complete an investigation and to get a court date. In some cases, the investigation will happen within a few weeks. In others, it may take longer. 

    To ask for a temporary guardianship, fill out:

    • Petition for Appointment of Temporary Guardian of the Person (form GC-110(P)). If you are also asking to be a temporary guardian of the child's estate, fill out a Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor (form GC-210) instead.
    • Notice of Hearing—Guardianship or Conservatorship (form GC-020)

      Attach Proof of Personal Service (form GC-020(P)) with the parents' names, the child's name if at least 12 years old, and the name of anyone who has a valid visitation order with the child. 

    • Order Appointing Temporary Guardian (form GC-140)
    • Letters of Temporary Guardianship (form GC-150)

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    If you file a Petition to become a temporary guardian, you will need to have a copy of the filed papers hand-delivered at least 5 court days before the court date to the child's parents, the child if 12 or older, and anyone with a valid visitation order with the child. 

  • Find out if you have any local forms to fill out

    Some courts have additional local forms you must use.   

    Contact your court clerk’s office, check your court’s website, or talk to your court's Self-Help Center staff to ask if they have any local forms you need to complete. 

  • Make copies

    Make at least 3 copies of all your forms. The court keeps the original. The other copies are for you and the parents. You may need to make more copies later to send to other family members.

Become a guardian

What's next?

After you fill out your forms, you need to file them with the court.

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Have a question about Guardianship?

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