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I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

How is being a guardian different from being a parent?

There aren't many joys greater than the joy of being a parent. However, being a parent is a big responsibility and for one reason or another, some parents may not be able to complete their parental responsibilities. Oftentimes in these unfortunate situations, a guardian will step in to complete parental duties and to look after the minor. Massachusetts family court may find it in a child's best interest to appoint a guardian to their case, if one is able and willing.

One big questions many guardians or soon-to-be guardians have is, how is guardianship of a minor different from obtaining parental rights? Guardianship is naturally more limited in the rights the guardian has versus a parent. However, the goals of both parental rights and guardianship is the same in that the goal is to look after the minor and to help them manage their finances and achieve their full potential. Responsibilities of a guardian include providing legal residence, guidance and to apply for public assistance or to bring lawsuit on behalf of a minor when necessary.

Any money the ward (or minor) receives is managed by the guardian on behalf of the minor. Since minors cannot often make wise decisions with money, the guardian is there to ensure that the finances are well looked-after in place of a person who normally would, like a parent. Obtaining guardianship is a legal process that must be approved by Massachusetts family court. One may not have legal financial rights of a ward (minor) if they haven't been approved.

Parental rights are not always terminated in cases where guardianship is awarded to another party. Oftentimes, parental rights coincide with guardian rights and are not mutually exclusive. Depending on the parent, the rights could in fact be terminated as a result of something that parent did. However, guardianship will not automatically cancel out any parental rights one may have.

Source: findlaw.com, "Guardianship of Minors," Accessed December 28, 2016

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