Becoming the legal guardian of a child can change the course of their life. Thousands of children in California need strong, caring, and attentive role models and caretakers, and guardians help fill those roles when parents cannot.
And although becoming a guardian is an incredibly selfless and thoughtful act, it can also be extremely difficult. That’s why it’s essential for anyone thinking of becoming a guardian to carefully consider the pros and cons and what unexpected challenges they may encounter before, during, and after the guardianship process.
If you’re thinking about becoming a guardian, here are 10 things to keep in mind before you make a firm decision:
- Do you have enough flexibility to be there when the child needs you?
Although most children are on fairly rigid schedules due to the demands of school and extracurricular activities, their lives can still be unpredictable. Illnesses, school closures, holidays, summer breaks, and more require parents and guardians to make ever-evolving accommodations and plans for their children. If your work or life schedule doesn’t allow much, if any, flexibility, it may be difficult for you to be an effective guardian.
- Do you have any friends, family members, or significant others who can help?
Many children are raised by single parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and guardians. And while it’s certainly possible to raise a happy, healthy child on your own, it’s not easy. The more help you have in the form of friends, relatives, and trusted neighbors, the more likely your guardianship will be a successful one.
- Will the new child mesh well with your family?
Before becoming a guardian, it’s important to look at your own family situation. Do you have children of your own? Are you married? If so, be sure that everyone is on the same page for bringing a new child into your household and your lives.
Although children may initially be resistant to having another child living under the same roof, many quickly adjust to and even become attached to their new playmates. Be sure your spouse is fully onboard, as you’ll need their support and assistance.
- Are you financially able to take care of the child?
Raising a child is expensive. Kids grow quickly, and in addition to ever-growing grocery bills, they also need new clothing, school supplies, furniture, sporting equipment, and more as they age. And although many children are covered under their parents’ or guardians’ health insurance, their bills can still be expensive.
Finally, you should consider whether you’ll assist the child with their higher education. Although guardianships end at 18, you may want to continue supporting the child through college and beyond, which can be extremely expensive.
- Does the child get along with you and vice versa?
Kids are flexible and resilient, and they can adapt to and thrive in many circumstances and living situations. But there’s no reason to force a child to adapt to a situation they don’t like or want. Before becoming a guardian, make an honest assessment of your relationship with the child.
Is your relationship strong enough to hit the ground running, or would it take time to warm up? If so, are you willing to put in the time, effort, and energy to make it happen?
- Does the child have any physical, mental, or emotional health issues?
Parenting a healthy child is difficult and time-consuming as-is. But when the child has needs for a medical or health condition, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, the demands on the caregivers can be enormous.
Before becoming a guardian of a child, get as much information about their health and health history as possible. If they need additional care beyond what healthy children require, ensure that you have the money, time, and flexibility to accommodate their needs.
- Can you commit to the guardianship until the child turns 18?
Even if the initial terms of the guardianship dictate that it’s only temporary, you should be prepared to remain the child’s guardian until their 18th birthday no matter what. This is especially important if the child’s parents are relying on a guardianship while they improve their own lives to become capable of caring for them. Dramatic improvements in finances and living situations don’t always happen, and many guardians continue looking after children for much longer than they originally anticipated.
- Can you and everyone in your home pass a background check?
Before granting guardianship to applicants, the state of California runs background checks on them to ensure there’s nothing in their past that might indicate they could harm or neglect the children they want to shelter and raise. However, many people don’t realize that those background checks also apply to others living under the same roof. If anyone who lives with you full or part-time has a criminal record, your application may be denied.
- Do the child’s parents want you as their child’s guardian?
Although this isn’t always a strict requirement, especially if a family court awards guardianship based on a child’s best interests, it’s almost always preferable that the child’s parents like or at least approve of their guardian. You don’t have to be best friends with or have a tight-knit relationship with the child’s parents, but it’s good to be on friendly, cooperative terms with them—especially if there’s a chance they will regain full custody of their child in the future.
- Would you rather adopt the child?
Although the day-to-day lives of children with legal guardians and adoptive parents are very similar, the legal rights and processes for making them happen are very different. Guardianships aren’t always meant to last forever, and parents still have the ability to regain custody of their children. Adoption, however, is permanent, and adoptive parents are viewed as biological parents in the eyes of the law. Research both options heavily before committing to either.
Need Help with a California Guardianship? We’ve Got Your Back.
Although becoming a guardian isn’t as complex or lengthy of a process as becoming an adoptive parent, it’s not easy or straightforward, either. There’s plenty of red tape to cut and hurdles to jump between you and the child you want to shelter and raise, and countless would-be guardians are denied their chance to make a difference in children’s lives because of small oversights and errors.
At the Law Office of André J. Ausseresses, APC, we know California’s guardianship process, and our CA family law attorneys have helped many people achieve their dreams of guardianship. Get the ball rolling on your guardianship today by contacting our firm for a free initial consultation.
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Serving all of Orange County, California.
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