When families in California are going through difficult circumstances, the role of a sibling can change dramatically. While many divorcing parents handle issues concerning child custody, in different situations, siblings can step in to provide guidance – and legal guardianship – to their younger brothers and sisters.

In many cases, siblings are quite close in age, and they generally share at least one parent. When siblings become involved in seeking child custody, there is usually an emotionally compelling reason. The parents of the child may be abusive or neglectful, or the child’s parents may be dead. The situation itself will almost certainly have a strong emotional impact on the older sibling involved in seeking custody.

In some cases, the parents or legal guardians of the younger sibling may be willing to voluntarily relinquish custody to the older brother and sister, especially if they are willing to admit that they cannot provide adequate care for the child. In this case, their voluntary agreement to sibling guardianship can speed and ease the process significantly. Much like an amicable parenting plan can speed a divorce settlement, a custody agreement can make the legal process quite simple.

Just like divorcing parents can handle child custody issues in court, a sibling can also file for custody where the younger brother or sister lives. A sibling will need to demonstrate that the existing legal guardian is abusive or harmful to the child. In some cases, of course, there may be no named guardian; for example, when both parents have died. In these cases, the sibling would need to show their ability to become a suitable legal guardian.

A family lawyer can provide guidance and representation to a sibling seeking custody of their younger brother or sister. In addition to filing for custody in court, a family law attorney can help a sibling file for visitation or apply to become their younger brother or sister’s legal foster parent, depending on the circumstances.