Massachusetts Guardianship Law
What is Massachusetts Guardianship of a Minor?
You can serve as the legal guardian of a minor child if his or her parents are unfit or unavailable to care for the youth. To secure a Massachusetts Guardianship of a minor, you will have to complete court documents and then file said documents with the Probate and Family Court in the county where you reside.
A Massachusetts guardianship will be appointed if the prospective child’s birth parents are unfit, unavailable or dead. A Massachusetts parent may consent to Massachusetts Guardianship by signing an assent in front of a notary. If the child is currently living with his or her parents, the court will only appoint a Massachusetts Guardianship if there is strong evidence that the parents are unfit to care for the child. This standard is ultimately difficult to prove; Massachusetts Probate and Family courts do not require (or expect) ideal parents, only adequate ones.
A Massachusetts guardianship possesses almost the same powers and responsibilities of a parent concerning a child’s care, education, support, welfare and health. MA guardianships cam make several routine decisions regarding the child’s daily life—and unless the court states otherwise—whether the birth parents may visit the child.
If the birth parents are able to care for the youth, but require period assistance, then they must—according to MA guardianship law– sign a Caregiver Authorization allowing the caregiver to care for the child. In this sense, the parent retains all obligations and rights and may revoke the authorization at any time. The form required for Caregiver Authorization is located here and here.
Is a Massachusetts Guardianship Allowed to Manage the Minor’s Money and Property?
A Massachusetts guardianship assumes a role similar to that of a birth parent. Massachusetts guardianships use the child’s money for the child’s education, welfare and health. A Massachusetts guardianship can manage moderate amounts of the youth’s money and is eligible for receiving up to $5,000 per year to use on the youth’s behalf. An MA guardianship can also become the youth’s representative payee for authority to receive social security income for the youth.
Who is Allowed to Become a Massachusetts Guardianship?
A Massachusetts guardianship must be at least 18 years of age and must live in the United States. Moreover, prospective Massachusetts guardianships must be ruled competent to care for the youth. The applicant must satisfy the Court’s requirements to deem that he/she can serve as the child’s legal guardian. After reviewing the applicant’s basic information, the Court will check the prospective Massachusetts guardianship’s criminal record and their database to see if the child has been involved with the Department of Children and Families. Prospective Massachusetts guardianships do not need to be related to the youth. Moreover, a child— according to MA guardianship law —can have two Massachusetts guardianships.
What is the Difference between Massachusetts Guardianships and Adopting?
A Massachusetts guardianship does not serve as the child’s legal parent. Appointment of Massachusetts guardianships does not cut ties with the birth parent’s responsibilities and rights—the birth parent(s) may still visit the child with the Massachusetts guardianship’s permission or via court order. Moreover, the Court may return custody to the child’s birth parents at any time. Only when birth parents place their children for adoption—or when their parental rights are terminated by the state—will they relinquish all responsibilities and rights toward the child. Massachusetts Guardianships are not permanent legal relationships because parents or interested parties will seek to have the Massachusetts Guardianship removed, and because many Massachusetts Guardianships expire when the youth turns 18.
Will the Massachusetts Guardianship Need to Notify Anyone of the Petition?
A Massachusetts Guardianship must comply with all of the court’s instructions to notify interested parties, including:
• MA Guardianship provisions include: the Veterans Administration if the department owes the youth any benefits
• MA Guardianship provisions include: The child, if above the age of 14
• MA Guardianship provisions include: Any conservator or guardian for the child; and
• MA Guardianship provisions include: Any individual with whom the youth has lived during the past 60 days (foster parents not included).
• MA Guardianship provisions include: The child’s parents or the child’s nearest alive relatives over the age of 18
The state court—based on MA Guardianship law–requires notice the all of the above; petitioners for Massachusetts Guardianships must be able to show the Court that the above party’s received a copy of the citation and the petition. Mail is not sufficient to prove this.
Where Do I File a Massachusetts Guardianship?
A Massachusetts Guardianship petition must be filed in the Family and Probate Court in the Massachusetts County where the youth lives. The child must generally reside in the state for six months for the Court to have jurisdiction to listen to a petition for Massachusetts Guardianships. If the child lives outside of Massachusetts, the petition for Massachusetts Guardianships must be filed in the state or country where the youth lives.
The necessary documents required to file a petition for Massachusetts Guardianships can be found on the trial court’s webpage, located here.
How Much Does it Cost to Petition for a Massachusetts Guardianship?
There are no filing fees for a petition of a MA Guardianship. The petitioner is required—according to MA Guardianships–to pay for the cost providing notice to the birth parents and other interested persons. Moreover, MA Guardianships require a $50 filing fee for a bond with sureties. The Massachusetts state court will typically not require a bond with sureties. Prospective Massachusetts Guardianships who cannot afford to satisfy said fees may ask the Court to waive these charges.
When does a Massachusetts Guardianship End?
Massachusetts Guardianships typically end when the youth reaches the age of 18 or when the child is adopted, marriages or when a judge determines that the Massachusetts guardianship is deemed no longer necessary. MA guardianships may also resign with permission of the Court. State courts may also remove the MA guardianship at the request of another party or on its own initiative.