Many people in Massachusetts regard a guardianship as permanent until the child reaches the age of 18, the age at which the guardianship automatically terminates. However, even though most guardianships provide significant benefits for both the parents and the ward, unexpected events can throw the ward, the guardian or the parents off track before the guardianship terminates. In such circumstances, terminating the guardianship may be the only effective recourse.
Three types of individuals have the right to seek termination of a guardianship: the child’s natural parents, a child over the age of 14 or any person interested in the child’s welfare. A parent can ask the guardian to resign and to return the child to his or her custody. If the guardian refuses such a request, the parent, the child if over 14 or another interested person can ask the court or an order removing the guardian.
Judicial removal of a guardian begins with the filing and service of a petition to remove the guardian by one of the eligible individuals. The notice of the hearing must be served on the minor, the current guardian, the child’s parents and any other person as directed by the court. The petition must state the reasons why removal of the guardian will serve the child’s best interests. If the petitioner is one of the child’s parents, the petitioner must also demonstrate current ability to assume and carry out ordinary parental responsibilities. If the court decides that the petition should be granted, it will issue a Decree and Order of Termination of Guardianship on a Petition for Removal. The court will state its findings in the order, including some or all the following:
- The parent can resume parental responsibility
- The minor has been adopted by a third party
- The guardian is being investigated or has charges pending for assault and battery or neglect of a minor, and
- The guardian has failed to act in the best interests of the child
Anyone who may be involved in a proceeding to terminate a guardianship may wish to consult an experienced family lawyer. These professionals can offer advice on the facts of the case, the type of evidence that will be presented and the most effective arguments that can be made on the client’s behalf.