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Guardianship
This section offers information about filing, fees, the guardianship process and what to expect when filing for a guardianship. This section also provides information about legal resources and free workshops for the public.
What is a guardianship?

A legal guardianship gives custody of a minor to a person other than a parent. The guardianship allows the guardian to provide health insurance, enroll the minor in school and provide care and protection.

When is a guardianship necessary?

A guardianship may be necessary when a minor's parents are no longer able or willing to provide care for the child.

How is a guardianship established?

The adult who wishes to be the legal guardian of a minor must file a petition with the Probate Clerk's Office. The Clerk's Office will set a court hearing. Probate Court Services will conduct an investigation to determine the suitability of the petitioner to have guardianship of the minor. At the court hearing, the court will make a determination as to whether or not the guardianship is necessary and if the petitioner is suitable.

How long is the guardianship in effect?

The guardianship will generally remain in effect until the minor reaches the age of majority (18) or until the guardianship is terminated by the court.

Is guardianship the same as Adoption?

No, parents still have parental rights. They can have reasonable contact with the child. The Court can end a guardianship if the parents become able to take care of the child.

How much does it cost to file for a guardianship?
See the fee schedule for fees to file the petition and for the investigation.

What if You Cannot Afford to Pay the Court Fees?

If you are getting public benefits, are a low-income person, or do not have enough income to pay for your household’s basic needs and your court fees, you may ask the court to waive all or part of your court fees. To ask for a fee waiver:

  1. Carefully read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs (form FW-001-INFO) to determine if you qualify
  2. Fill out the Request to Waive Court Fees (form FW-001)
  3. Fill out sections 1, 2, and 3, of Order on Court Fee Waiver (FW-003)
  4. Turn in these forms to the clerk along with the other documents you are filing (example: complaint, petition, answer, etc.)

You may be ordered to go to court to answer questions about your ability to pay court fees and costs and to provide proof of eligibility.

Granting or Denial of Fee Waiver Request

You will receive an Order on Court Fees Waiver (form FW-003) telling you if your request was granted (approved) or denied. The Order will explain how to proceed. Act quickly - you only have 10 days from the date the Order is mailed to you to comply with the order or exercise your options if your request was denied.

Paying Back Filing Fees

Even if your fees are waived at first, you may have to pay them back later:

  • If your finances improve you must tell the court within five days. Fill out the Notice to Court of Improved Financial Situation or Settlement (form FW-010) and file it with the court. You may be ordered to repay any amounts that were waived.
  • If you receive a judgment or support order in a family law matter you may be ordered to pay all or part of your waived fees and costs if the court determines that you can afford to pay. You can ask the court for a hearing if the court makes such a decision.
  • If you win your case in most circumstances the other side will be ordered to pay your waived fees and costs to the court. The court will not enter a satisfaction of judgment until the court is paid.
  • If you settle your civil case for $10,000.00 or more any waived fees and costs must first be paid to the court out of the settlement. The court will have a lien on the settlement and may refuse to dismiss the case until the lien is satisfied. A request to dismiss the case must reflect that the waived fees and costs have been paid.

The court can collect fees and costs due to the court. If waived fees and costs are ordered paid to the trial court, the court can start collection proceedings.

What if someone contests the guardianship?

If more than one person petitions the court for guardianship of a minor, each petitioner will be investigated to determine their suitability. If a parent is contesting the guardianship, the Court may order the Department of Social Services to conduct a full investigation of all parties.


To obtain free legal assistance for guardianship matters:

If you have filed a guardianship petition and do not have a lawyer, you may be eligible for free legal assistance if you meet certain age, disability or income requirements. For more information click here

To view a complete listing of Local Probate forms click HERE

To view a listing of Judicial Council Forms for Probate matters, click HERE

© 2014 Superior Court of Orange County