A few weeks ago, this blog covered some of the very basics of beginning the process of becoming a legal guardian for a child. An adult may do this if, for some reason, the child’s parents are not capable of taking care of him or her, due to illness, incarceration, or other circumstances. We discussed who can file a petition for guardianship, and the fact that certain people, such as the child’s parents or other relatives, will need to be served notice of the time and date the court sets for a hearing. But, what will generally happen at such a hearing?
First, it should be noted that both the child, and the parents of the child may have a right to an attorney at this hearing. Either the child in question, or someone acting as an agent for the child can request the appointment of a lawyer to represent the child. The parents can bring their own lawyer, or, if they prove they are indigent, may have one appointed for them.
The hearing itself will address a few questions. The court will determine if proper notice of the proceedings has been given to the appropriate parties, and that the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. It will also decide if the requested guardian is eligible to serve and meets the minimum legal requirements. Most importantly, the judge will make a determination as to whether the appointment of the guardian is in the best interests of the child, and will promote his or her welfare. The court can also issue a temporary order and set a new hearing date to collect more information.
Whether a Massachusetts resident is a parent of a child who may have a guardian appointed, or a person seeking to become the guardian of a child, it is important to understand the legal process that will occur. Because each case will be examined on its own facts, there are no general rules about what will constitute the best interests of a child in all situations. Those with questions about guardianship of a minor may want to consider consulting an experienced family attorney.