California parents are considered the natural guardians of their children. In some cases, another family member, such as a sibling, may need to gain custody of a minor child because the parents are deceased or are unable or unfit to care for the child.
In some cases, a parent may voluntarily relinquish custody to a sibling. This may help avoid an emotionally draining courtroom battle. In such cases, the sibling who is trying to gain custody will simply need to have the appropriate paperwork signed by the parent and approved by a judge.
If the parent does not agree to sign over his or her rights, a contested proceeding may be necessary. A petition for guardianship of the child should be filed in the location where the child lives.
To take away custody from a parent there must be a finding by the court that the parent is abusive or unfit to take care of the child. Judges usually believe that it is in the best interests of the child to remain with the natural parents, so a prospective guardian should be prepared to present proof about why it is not in the child's best interests to remain with the parent.
Anyone who is considering filing a petition to gain custody of a sibling may wish to consult an attorney. An attorney may be able to help ensure that the papers are filed in the appropriate jurisdiction, that the court rules are followed and that sufficient evidence is presented to demonstrate the need for a change in child custody.