What Is Legal Guardianship?

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The Judicial Branch of California defines legal guardianship as a court order that states that someone who is not a child’s parent is responsible for taking care of the child. A legal guardian has most of the same responsibilities and rights as a parent would have.

A legal guardian can be the grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brother, foster parents, friends of the child’s family, or someone else who knows that child, according to the Judicial Brand of California. Legal guardians are allowed to make most medical decisions for a child, such as general medical and dental procedures, but the court must make the decision on nonemergency surgeries and certain medicines. Guardians can choose to support the child without help from the child's parents, but typically they must support their child. Legal guardians can receive welfare assistance, foster care payments, supplemental security income if the child has a disability and medical care assistance.

If a parent coparents a child with a same-sex partner, the partner should be named as the personal guardian of the child, Nolo states. A letter to the court explaining why the partner should be the legal guardian is sometimes used to explain why this is important.