Baby Groot – From Custody to Child Endangerment with Nuclear Weapons

Baby Groot is adorable…and a dancing his way into great legal issues.

Just who is Baby Groot’s legal guardian? All of the Guardians acted as Groot’s guardian. Who would a court actually appoint as the guardian?

Baby Groot was grown from the remains of the original Groot. The law is not designed for adoption of talking trees, so a court could view the original Groot as the “parent” of Baby Groot. As such, Baby Groot would be an orphan.

A court would not appoint all of the Guardians of the Galaxy as the parents of Baby Groot, as custody is awarded to either a couple or single person. One likely option is for Rocket Raccoon to be the guardian of Groot. However, that would mean a court is deciding whether a scientifically enhanced raccoon could be the legal guardian of a sentient tree. A court on Earth likely would decline jurisdiction, unless Peter Quill was the petitioner. Gamora and Drax would also be cases of first impression for extraterrestrials to seek adoption of an infant tree.

States generally require a preliminary assessment on the eligibility of adoptive parents by examining their social history, criminal records, and the capability to meet the child’s needs. See, In re Carl R. (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 1051, 1062–1063. Moreover, the adoptive parents must understand their legal and financial responsibilities in adopting a child. Id.

Rocket, Star-Lord, Gamora, and Drax, all had substantial criminal records, which would raise significant red flags for any adoption. However, the Guardians had been pardoned for past crimes and their records expunged. Their individual social histories are also complex, with bar fights, space pirates, and galactic war criminals. Moreover, how is it even remotely safe to have a child dancing during a fight with an inter-dimensional monster?

Child Protective Services would agree Rocket Raccoon and Star-Lord had a bad plan: Giving Baby Groot a nuclear weapon in order to stop a galaxy threatening celestial being. The weapon had one button for a 5-minute detonation and a second button to immediately set off the bomb. Baby Groot demonstrated a lack of understanding for which button to push, raising significant issues of child endangerment.

“Child endangerment” includes situations where a person “willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered.” CA Pen. Code, § 273a, subd. (a). While there are [thankfully] no court opinions with children entrusted with a nuclear weapons directly on point, most judges would agree giving a toddler a weapon of mass destruction with a dead man switch, would endanger the health of the child. No expert testimony would be required.

The Guardians of the Galaxy have a substantial number of warning signs that go against entrusting them with raising a child. That being said, each one demonstrated concern for Baby Groot’s well-being, from battles with monsters to wearing a seatbelt. Moreover, they provided a nurturing home, such as Drax holding Groot while he fell asleep. A court might overlook the issues, as no family is perfect, and who better to raise Baby Groot, then those who saved the galaxy twice?

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Josh Gilliland

Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, the ABA Web 100 for Best Legal Blog and Podcast categories, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.