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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 does the guardianship process work in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, as in other states, there are times when a parent may not be able to take proper care of their child. In cases like this, a Massachusetts court can give legal custody of the child to another person through the concept of guardianship. A guardian is expected to provide a stable home environment for a child. The guardian is also supposed to make decisions about a child's education, health and safety. However, if the court renders a judgment that goes against the guardian's decision, the guardian must follow this order.

There are certain processes that must be followed in order to become a guardian. The individual needs to file guardianship papers with the family court in the county where they live. The courts will entrust a guardian to take care of a child when the child's parents are either dead or are unfit to take care of the child. However, this is difficult to prove. Parents do not have to be ideal, but they still need to be adequate.

Guardianship gives a person the same authority as a parent. So, if a parent can take care of the child but needs support from time to time, then the parent can sign a caregiver authorization and entrust a guardian to take care of the child when the parent is unable to. This authorization can be revoked any time.

A guardian not only provides the proper medical care, but also takes care of any property the child has and can even use the child's money to support the child. However, a guardian needs to ask for the court's permission if a child needs extraordinary medical treatment or if the child needs to be admitted to a disability facility.

Source: MassGuardianshipAssociation.org, "Guardianship of a Minor," accessed on Dec.6, 2014

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Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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