How to Get Custody of a Sibling in California?

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 How Do I Get Custody of My Sibling in California?

In family law, child custody is an individual’s, typically a parent’s, right to make any major decisions concerning their child, such as:

  • Where the child will reside;
  • What type of education they will obtain;
  • Where they will attend school;
  • What their religious practices will be; and
  • Medical care decisions.

Getting custody of a sibling is a complex area of child custody in California. This is because a court will usually not grant custody rights to an individual other than the child’s parent.

If a parent is not able to care for the child, other adult children or older siblings will not be automatically granted custody rights over their younger siblings. In order for an individual to obtain custody of their sibling, they would have to show that both of their parents are unfit or incapable in some way or that both of their parents are deceased.

Examples of unfit parenting may include:

  • Instances of abuse or neglect;
  • Purposely failing to provide the child with basic necessities or needs;
  • Abandonment of the child or children;
  • Exposing the child to psychologically damaging or emotionally harmful situations.

Unfit parenting can also include living a lifestyle that is not considered to be in the child’s best interest. Courts are more likely to consider parents to be unfit if the types of conditions listed above are likely to continue without any change in the future.

If both of the child’s parents passed away without a will stating who will be responsible for the child or children, a party who has legitimate interests is allowed to petition the court for custody. Third parties may include:

  • Grandparents
  • Aunts
  • Uncles
  • Siblings
  • Family friends

Third-party custody rights are usually only granted in extreme or emergency situations. In the State of California, specifically, in order for an individual to obtain custody of a younger sibling, they must fulfill certain requirements, including:

  • Being over the age of 18 or an emancipated minor;
  • The child has to be in harm’s way; and
  • The adult sibling has the ability to be physically, financially, and emotionally responsible for their younger sibling.

If an individual has any questions regarding how to get custody of their siblings in California, they should consult with a local attorney in California.

What Is the Process for Obtaining Custody of a Sibling?

The first step in obtaining custody of a sibling is to determine whether or not a custody appeal is necessary. This may be accomplished by requesting that the child’s parent or legal guardian relinquish legal custody so that the petitioning sibling may take over as the legal guardian.

In some situations, the child’s parent or parents may be aware that the sibling would be better off in a different location and may be willing to give their child a better home. In most cases, the sibling requesting custody will have to go to the court or court website in the county in which their sibling resides.

The adult sibling will be required to file a petition requesting to be appointed guardian of their sibling as well as any other required forms. It is always important to have the assistance of a lawyer when completing any legal forms.

The sibling who is petitioning for custody will need to find out if their younger sibling is already involved in a custody case and if an order regarding the custody of the sibling is already in place. If there is already an order in place, the sibling may need to petition the same court handling the existing order so that the two courts do not issue inconsistent orders.

The court will determine custody of the sibling just as it would in any other custody case, using the child’s best interest standard. If the adult sibling is alleging that their younger sibling’s parents are unfit, they will be required to demonstrate to the court that they are capable of providing for their youngest sibling, which will require providing:

  • Food;
  • Clothing;
  • Housing;
  • Education;
  • Medical care; and
  • A stable home life.

The court may order that the petitioning sibling and the younger sibling be interviewed by an investigator and that the investigator visit the child’s potential residence. The petitioning sibling may be able to show that they are financially, emotionally, and mentally capable of caring for their younger sibling and that being in their care would be in their sibling’s best interest. If this is the case, the court may award them custody.

For families with multiple minor children, the petitioning sibling may have to show that having custody would preserve the family unit. This is especially true in situations where other relatives could not take all of the siblings and, as a result, they would be separated.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Take Custody of a Sibling?

In order for an individual to take custody of their older sibling, they have to be an adult. In the State of California, an individual is an adult at 18 years old.

Can a Sibling Be a Legal Guardian?

Yes, an older sibling or adult sibling can become a legal guardian of their younger sibling if the age requirements discussed above are satisfied and the court awards them custody rights. An adult sibling may gain custody of a younger sibling in certain situations, such as:

  • Both parents are deceased;
  • Incapacitation of both parents;
  • Neglect;
  • Abuse;
  • Incarceration;
  • Addiction;
  • Another reason that deems the parents unfit to raise the child.

What Else Should Be Considered?

It is important for an individual to be aware that custody laws vary by state. This means that if an individual does not live in the same state as their sibling or if one or both of their sibling’s parents contest their petition for guardianship, the custody process may become very complicated.

There are also other issues that may complicate a petition, such as if a child is disabled or owns a significant amount of property. In these cases, the court may require that the petitioning sibling notify their sibling’s relatives of the guardianship petition.

This may cause issues if the sibling’s parents have passed away and other relatives have been given custody rights in a will. If both of the parents are deceased, the court will determine if there was a written will.

The parents of the sibling could both be alive and agree to give the adult sibling guardianship. If so, the court may place the younger sibling with their adult sibling if the placement is necessary and proper based on the circumstances. If either of the parents object to the adult sibling having guardianship, the child’s best interests will be examined, including whether or not the child’s well-being would be at risk if they continued to live with one or both of their parents.

Do I Need an Attorney for Sibling Custody Issues?

You may be considering trying to get custody of your younger sibling or siblings in the State of California. In that case, it is essential to have the assistance of a California guardianship lawyer. As discussed above, custody laws can be complex and vary by location.

Your lawyer will give you advice regarding what laws will apply in your case, help you file your petition and complete any required forms, and represent you during court proceedings. If your younger sibling needs your help, having a lawyer on your case will give you the best chance at helping your loved one.

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