A guardianship is a legal order that gives someone other than a child's parents the right to make child care decisions and take care of the child. Although a legal guardianship does not terminate a parent's custody rights, it does grant the guardian many of the same rights and responsibilities of a parent in raising and caring for a child. The laws governing guardianship differ between states, but only a court can grant you guardianship rights for a child.
Contact the court clerk's office. You must ask a court to grant you guardianship over a child, but the procedures differ between states. The civil court clerk of your local courthouse can tell you what you need to file to begin the process.
Prepare the guardianship petition. A petition is the legal document you file with the clerk's office that officially asks the court to grant you guardianship. For example, in California you need to file form GC-210--Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor. Other forms may also be required depending on the particulars of your situation.
File the petition with the court clerk. Guardianships are usually determined by a probate court judge or a family court judge, and you must file your petition with the appropriate court clerk's office. You must usually pay a filing fee when you file, though this differs between states and even between counties.
Attend the hearing. Once you file your petition, the court clerk assigns you a case number and a hearing date. Depending on where you live, the court may send an investigator to review the situations surrounding the case before or after the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will hear all the evidence and determine if granting you a guardianship is appropriate.
Contact a family law attorney. Child guardianship procedures and laws vary widely between sates and can be quite complex, so always contact a family law attorney in your area if you need legal advice.