When parents are unable, unavailable, or unfit to take care of their child, some responsible adult needs to assume responsibility for that child’s care and custody – which could be by way of a Guardianship of a Child case.
In Massachusetts, any person over the age of 18 – a family member, surviving step-parent, or another responsible adult – may petition the Probate and Family Court in the county where the child resides to seek Guardianship over a child; the Guardian steps into the shoes of a parent to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, medical care, and education. One or both parents may consent to a guardianship – and a child over the age of 14 may nominate a Guardian.
What Happens if a Parent Does Not Consent to Guardianship?
If a parent does not consent, however, the proposed Guardian (as the petitioner) must prove that the parent or parents are unfit to care for the child in line with the child’s specific needs – and further, that a Guardianship is in the child’s best interest.
In case of emergency, a petitioner may seek an emergency temporary guardianship of a child, but must thereafter provide notice to parents of the Guardianship proceedings, and an opportunity to object and be heard. In order for a Court to issue a Decree of Guardianship over a parent’s objection, the petitioner will need to prove, and the Court will need to find, that there is clear and convincing evidence that the parent or parents are not fit or able to care for the child, and that guardianship with the petitioner is in the child’s best interest.
If the court issues a Guardianship Decree, it could continue until a child turns 18 years old, but it may be terminated by a voluntary or forced resignation of the Guardian. A parent may request that a court terminate a Guardianship if he/she has become fit or able or available, or some other change in circumstance in the child’s life warrants the termination, and the court can consider the parent’s fitness anew. In this way, a Guardianship is not necessarily permanent.
Schedule a Consultation with Our Experienced Family Lawyers at Mason & Nasios
If you are seeking assistance or information regarding guardianship in Massachusetts, the Plymouth County family lawyers at Mason & Nasios can help. We assist clients all around Brockton and Southeastern Massachusetts understand their rights. Our experienced family lawyers help clients through all child-related disputes, including child custody, child support, parenting plans, adoption, grandparent visitation and more. Contact us today for a consultation.