California fathers who have not established paternity will need to do so if the custodial parent dies and the father wishes to become the custodial parent. If a custodial parent dies and the other parent is unable or unwilling to become the child's guardian, there are a few things that might happen.
The best solution in a situation like this is normally that another close family member, such as a grandparent, can become the child's guardian. However, close family members may also be unable or unwilling, or there might not be any immediate family. It this happens, the child might enter the foster system. Once the child becomes a ward of the state, family members would need to get visitation rights and would have no control over where the child is placed.
If family members are unable to become guardians, another possible solution and one that may be better for the child than having the state step in is having a person who is not a relative, such as a family friend, become the child's guardian. If a non-family member petitions for custody, the judge will take several factors into consideration including whether any relatives have filed for custody, what the child's relationship with the person is and what is in the child's best interests.
The best interests of the child is the standard the court uses in making all its decisions regarding custody and visitation, and parents should also make an effort to keep this in mind whether they are negotiating child custody or following a judge's custody orders. As parents are creating a parenting agreement and discussing various aspects of parenting while in separate households, they may also want to consider discussing who they would prefer to have as their child's guardian if both of them die.