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Who has priority in guardianship appointments?

As this blog has discussed, when a Massachusetts child needs an adult in their lives to protect them legally and provide a home for them, a guardianship of a minor is a legal option. The appointment of a guardian, however, actually involves two steps:

First, a judge has to decide that a guardianship is necessary, and specifically must determine that the child’s parents, if they are alive and are not agreeable to the guardianship, are not fit to have custody. Then, the court has to decide who the guardian of the child will be.

Generally speaking, anyone who has an interest in the child’s welfare can ask to be appointed the child’s guardian, as the court will appoint the guardian that the court believes will serve the child’s best interests. However, there are a few wrinkles in this rule potential guardians will want to keep in mind.

First, a child over 14 is allowed to ask for a particular person to be his or her guardian, and the court is supposed to give due respect to the teen’s wishes. Furthermore, other provisions of Massachusetts law give parents the option of naming a guardian for their children in advance, and the parents’ choice will generally take priority over others who are interested in being the child’s guardian.

A Springfield resident who wants to be a guardian over a young relative or even an unrelated child with whom they are close will have to show both that a guardianship is necessary and that they are the right guardian to foster the child’s best interests. Doing this will likely require an appearance in court or some careful legal negotiations.