Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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Toll Free 877-622-6089

Family Law Attorney

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

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Duties of a guardian toward a child with special needs

Guardianship of a minor child will be awarded to a relative in most cases, or an unrelated person or even a government agency in cases where the biological parents are unable to care for the child. A child who needs guardianship might have special needs due to an intellectual disability that leaves the child unable to make decisions or makes decision-making a challenge. A guardianship for a special needs child might be awarded even after the child has attained the age of majority, which is 18-years-old under Massachusetts law.

Not every child with special needs is thought to be a good candidate for a guardianship agreement, because attorneys for the child as well as the guardian need to prove to the family court judge that the intellectual disability of the child in question renders the child unable to adequately care for his or herself to the point that a guardian is needed to look after the child's best interests.

In most cases, a medical and psychological evaluation will need to be submitted by prospective guardians in order to prove that the special-needs child is unable to care for him or herself. The evaluation needs to be completed and signed by three clinicians, including a registered physician, a licensed social worker and a licensed psychologist.

Each clinician conducts tests to determine the intellectual capability of the child. The battery of tests conducted by these three parties usually gives the court a better understanding of the child's disposition and the severity of the disability. Only in cases of grave disability does the court award guardianship. Guardianship procedures based on intellectual disability usually need to be started before the child is 18-years-old. Since the child is presumed to be emancipated at the age of 18, winning guardianship after that age would be harder to achieve.

Source: Massachusetts Guardianship Association, "Intellectual disability and guardianship," Elise Kopley, Esq., Accessed on June 15, 2015

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1380 Main Street, Suite 302
Springfield, MA 01103

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