How can you become a guardian?

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Who is a guardian?

Most of the time, a child’s parents will be the child’s guardians, but other people can be guardians too.

When parents live together, both parents are the child's guardians. This means they're equally responsible for the child's care and upbringing. It doesn't matter whether they're married.

If a child's parents stop living together, they both continue to be guardians. It doesn't matter who moves out or who the child lives with. Even if a parent has never lived with their child, the parent is still a guardian if they’ve regularly cared for their child.

A parent who isn’t a guardian can become one by court order, under an agreement (if there's no prior court order), or under a will. A person who's not a parent can become a guardian only by court order or under a will. A person who isn’t a parent can't become a child's guardian because someone puts it into an agreement.

Guardianship can only be removed by a court order, or if both parents agree that one of them will no longer be a guardian. (See Guardianship: Parenting time and parental responsibilities for information about terminating guardianship.)

Who can apply for a court order to become a guardian?

Anyone can apply to the court to become a guardian. This includes:

  • parents who aren't guardians,
  • grandparents,
  • step-parents (step-parents don't automatically become guardians no matter how long they live with a child),
  • siblings (brothers or sisters),
  • other family members, or
  • people who aren't family members.

The court will look carefully at anyone who applies. It doesn't matter who they are and what their relationship to the child is.

Important: If you want to temporarily look after a relative’s or friend’s child because the Ministry of Children and Family Development is involved with their family, the Extended Family Program might be a better alternative. This program is an alternative to foster care. It gives resources and financial support to eligible caregivers. People who are or who become a child’s guardian can't participate.

Before you apply to become a guardian, read our fact sheet Understanding the Extended Family Program. Or see Temporary & Permanent Care Options on the ministry website.

The ministry also has other programs to help caregivers get children out of long-term foster care or as an alternative to adoption.

How do I apply?

You can use one of our self-help guides about how to apply for a family order.

There's one extra form you must fill out when you're applying for guardianship. This form is called a special Affidavit (Form 34 in Provincial Court and Form F101 in Supreme Court). Before you fill it out, you must arrange for the background checks listed in that affidavit.

What information does the affidavit require?

This affidavit includes the following information:

  • the nature and length of your relationship with the child,
  • the child's living arrangements,
  • a detailed plan for how you're going to care for the child,
  • information about any other children in your care,
  • information about any incidents of family violence that may affect the child, and
  • information about any family or child protection court proceedings you’ve been involved in.

You must also get three background checks:

  • a Ministry of Children and Family Development records check,
  • a Protection Order Registry records check, and
  • a criminal records check.

To get a criminal records check, ask at the police station or RCMP detachment in your community.

To get the Ministry of Children and Family Development and Protection Order Registry background checks, you must fill out:

Give them to the court registry where you filed your application. Check back to see if the record checks have been filed (it may take a while). The registry will then give you copies to attach to your Affidavit.

Can I get a temporary order without the affidavit?

If you want to get an order quickly and you don't have time to get all the background checks first, you can apply for an interim order.

This order will last 90 days. During this time, you must get the background checks and fill out and file the affidavit.

Who can help?

Family duty counsel can help with your application. They’re lawyers Legal Aid pays to help people with lower incomes with their family law matters. They can give you free legal advice. But they can’t take on your whole case or represent you at trial. See Legal advice on the Legal Aid BC website.

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