There are certain circumstances in which someone other than a child's parent might obtain legal and physical custody over a child—or in other words, obtain guardianship of the child. This means that this adult will care for the child just as a parent would, provide all of the child's everyday necessities (such as shelter, food and clothing) and make important decisions concerning the child's life and wellbeing (such as decisions about medical care and education). This type of guardianship is referred to as "guardianship of the person."

As noted by the California Courts website, here are some of the various situations in which a child might need a guardian appointed for him or her by the court: incarceration of the parent; parent's participation in a drug or alcohol abuse program, or a rehab program; parent's overseas military leave; physical or mental illness of the parent that makes him or her unable to care for the child; or parent's history of abuse. Sometimes, guardianship is temporary, while in other cases it is permanent.

Sometimes, the court will also set up guardianship of the child's estate. This assigns an adult who is not the child's parent to manage the child's assets, which may include money or other property. The guardianship remains in effect until the child turns 18. The guardian of the child's estate may or may not be the same individual who is serving as the "guardian of the person." One example of when this type of guardianship might be used is when the child has received a large amount of money or a house as part of his or her inheritance.

When you are trying to obtain legal guardianship of a child, you will want to make sure you follow all the steps correctly for being approved for this role. You will need to be able to show the court that your guardianship over the child will serve his or her best interests.

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