Probate Court Services
Probate Court Services is a specialized unit that handles investigations related to guardianships, conservatorships, stepparent adoptions and freedom from parental control.
Guardianship Investigations
What is a guardianship?

A guardianship is a court ordered transfer of legal responsibility to a specific adult for the physical care and protection of a minor and/or the assets of a minor.

When is a guardianship necessary?

A guardianship may be necessary when a minor's parents are no longer able or willing to provide care. A legal guardianship gives custody of the minor to a person other than a parent. The guardianship allows the guardian to provide health insurance coverage, enroll a minor in school, receive assets or benefits on behalf of the minor and provide other necessary care and protection.

How is a guardianship established?

The adult who wishes to be the legal guardian of a minor must file a petition with the Probate Clerk's Office. Click HERE for fees and filing information. The Probate Clerk’s Office is located on the 1st floor of the Central Justice Center. Probate Court Services will conduct an investigation to determine the suitability of the petitioner to have the guardianship of the minor. The report of this suitability study will be sent to the court for the judicial officer's consideration. At the court hearing, the court will make a determination as to whether or not the guardianship is necessary and if the petitioner is suitable. Probate Court Services will only conduct the investigation if the petitioner is related to the minor.

How much does it cost for a guardianship?

See the fee schedule for fees to file the petition and for the investigation. If the fees present a hardship; you may be eligible for a fee waiver. For more information, instructions and forms regarding how to seek a waiver of court fees, click here.

What if someone contests the guardianship?

If more than one person petitions the court for guardianship of a minor, each petitioner will be investigated to determine their suitability. If a parent is contesting the guardianship, the court may order Probate Court Services to conduct a full investigation of all parties. The court may also order the Social Services Agency to conduct an investigation into the appropriateness of a parent having custody of the child. Reports of these investigations are provided to the court for the judicial officer's consideration.

How long is the guardianship in effect?

The guardianship will generally remain in effect until the minor reaches the age of (18). At any time, a parent may file a petition to terminate the guardianship. The court will order an investigation at that time. The guardian and the parents may agree to mutually terminate the guardianship but the court must legally make the order for termination. The guardian may wish to terminate their responsibility for the minor but there must be an appropriate adult to take over the care and custody of the minor or they may go into protective custody. If the minor is adopted, the guardianship will terminate.

Conservatorship Investigations
What is a conservatorship?

A conservatorship is a legal determination by the court placing the interest of a vulnerable adult in the care and protection of another.

Who may need a conservatorship?

Any adult who lacks the capacity or is unable to take care of his or her own needs for food, shelter, or medical care or is unable to substantially manage their personal finances and is subject to undue influence may be in need of the protection of a conservatorship.

Who may be a conservator?

Conservators are usually family members or close friends. If there is no one close to the conservatee who is able to act on his or her behalf, a professional conservator or the Public Guardian may be appointed.

How to Begin a Conservatorship

When the forms are completed and you are ready to file them, go to the Probate Clerk's Office on the 1st floor of the Central Justice Center. Click HERE for fees & filing information.

What if this is an emergency situation?

When an emergency situation exists, a Temporary Conservatorship Petition can be filed. For additional information on the temporary appointment click here.

What happens after the petition is filed?

The filing of a conservatorship petition triggers an investigation by Probate Court Services. An investigator will interview the proposed conservatee and conservator(s) and any other agencies or individuals who may be able to provide information to the court. The investigator will prepare a report for the courts consideration.

How long does the investigation take?

The investigation process will begin after you file your petition and will be completed before your hearing date.

How does the Court monitor a conservatorship?

A: Probate code 1850 states every conservatorship shall be reviewed by the court six months after the appointment, one year after the appointment and annually after that. An investigation is conducted annually for General conservatorships and every two years for Limited conservatorships. At those times, the court investigator will visit the conservatee and speak with the conservator and any other persons or agencies providing services to the conservatee. The investigator will prepare a report for the court so the court may determine if the conservatorship continues to be appropriate and in the best interest of the conservatee.

What happens if it appears the conservatee is being abused, neglected, or financially exploited?

Adult Protective Services is the agency charged with investigating allegations of abused and neglect of adults. If the alleged victim is conserved, Adult Protective Services and Probate Court Services work together to resolve problems and provide for the well-being of the victim. Orange County Adult Protective Services 24 hour hotline is (800) 451-5155. For more information regarding elder abuse click here.

Orientation Class is Required For All New Conservators

The class is scheduled every Tuesday, except holidays from 3:15 to 5:00 p.m. at the Central Justice Center, 700 Civic Center Drive West, Room A-100, Santa Ana, CA 92701 in the 1st Floor Jury Assembly Room. You can choose the day you attend, or attend the class the day of the hearing. If you attend on the date of the hearing, you cannot receive your orders or Letters of conservatorship until attendance of this class is verified. No reservations are required. The court does not validate parking.

It is required that you bring the Conservatorship Handbook with you to the class. It can be purchased for $20.00 from the Probate Clerk’s office on the first floor. You may also send a written request by mail with a self-addressed 9x12, postage paid envelope. The postage must be in the amount of $6.00 to ensure proper delivery. The book is also available online.

Please bring a copy of your petition for appointment to the class; it will be helpful when completing your attendance sheet and you will need the attorney information during the class.

Sign the attendance sheet.

You will see a movie. The purpose of the movie is to give an overview of the duties on the conservator.

Fill out the Acknowledgement of Attendance. You will receive help from the instructor, but the petition has the information needed concerning your attorney.

The instructor will review the Guidelines for Conservators with the class. You will take home the guidelines form and a change of address form.

At the end of the class, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire to be returned to the instructor.

Stepparent and Domestic Partnership Adoptions
What is a stepparent adoption?

A stepparent adoption is a legal process in which one legal parent has custody of a minor and the stepmother or stepfather are seeking to become the legal parent of the child.

What is a domestic partnership adoption?

Domestic partners as defined in Family Code Section 297 are two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in a committed relationship. This relationship is registered with the state of California. A domestic partnership adoption is a legal process in which one of the partners has custody of a minor and the other partner seeks to become the legal parent of the child.

How does the process begin?

An adoption request is filed in the Probate Clerk's office on the 1st floor of the Central Justice Center. See the fee schedule for the fee to file the petition and the investigation fee. Filing fees are subject to change. Click HERE for fees & filing information.

What happens next?

Once an adoption request has been filed, Probate Court Services will be notified and begin the investigation process. The petitioner will be sent forms to complete and a list of documents the petitioner will need to obtain. Once you have gathered the required documents, you will need to schedule an appointment to have your documents reviewed. If you have obtained all of the necessary documents, your case will then be ready to investigate. When an investigator is available, one will be assigned. The investigator will interview the petitioner, the spouse or partner, and the minor(s). The investigator will check law enforcement records, child abuse registry records and will verify the petitioner's employment. It will also be necessary to obtain references from three non-related individuals. The results of the investigation will be given to the Court in a report. The investigator will either recommend for or against the adoption.

What about the other (absent) parent?

It is necessary to either gain the consent of the absent parent or terminate their parental rights before the adoption can be granted. It is the responsibility of the petitioner to attempt to locate the other parent and obtain their consent. If their whereabouts are unknown or they are unwilling to sign the consent, the petitioner will need to meet the legal requirements to proceed with the adoption.

When will the adoption take place?

If all the legal requirements have been met the petitioner will need to submit a memorandum for a hearing. The Probate Clerk's Office will then set a hearing date for adoption. The State of California will send you a birth certificate with the child's adopted name six (6) to ten (10) months after the adoption hearing.

Freedom From Parental Custody and Control
What is Freedom From Parental Custody and Control?

When a person is seeking to adopt the child of another, both parents must consent to the adoption. If one of the parents whereabouts are unknown or they are unwilling to consent to the adoption, it will be necessary to terminate their parental rights before the adoption can proceed.

How do I start the process?

You will need to file a petition to free the minor from the parental custody of his absent parent. The petition can be filed in the Probate Clerk's Office on the 1st floor of the Central Justice Center. See the fee schedule for the fees to file the petition and for the investigation fee. This is subject to change. Click HERE for fees & filing information.

What happens next

Once the petition has been filed, a Probate Court Services investigator will be assigned to your case. The investigator will document the efforts to locate the absent parent or will prepare a court report with the parent's statements regarding how they feel about the proposed adoption. If the absent parent is located and is willing to sign the consent, the termination of their parental rights will not be necessary. The investigator will recommend either for or against the termination. A trial is possible if the absent parent contests the adoption. If the judicial officer terminates the absent parent's rights and Probate Court Services has recommended in favor of the adoption, you will then be permitted to set the hearing for the adoption.


Probate Court Services is unable to provide legal advice. We can however, provide you with information about our services. If you have questions about our services, please call (657) 622-6540.

© 2014 Superior Court of Orange County