Guardianship of a Minor

Guardianship is a legal process for a child under the age of eighteen not under a parent’s care.  A Massachusetts court can give custody and care of a child to a Guardian if a parent gives permission or the court finds the parent is unable or unavailable to provide care. A Guardian takes on the role of a parent, providing a stable home and making everyday decisions about a child’s health, education, and safety.

Where do I begin?

Becoming a child’s Guardian is one way to help care for a child. Before you begin a legal process, consider the Alternatives to Guardianship which do not require court approval.

To learn more, click on the Question and Answer topics below:

 General Guardianship Information

Specific Information and Resources
“Best interests of the child verses unfitness of the parent: Unraveling the intertwinement”, by Veronica Serrato, Esq.  In a guardianship of a child under 18, where parents don’t consent to the guardianship, the judge must decide whether the parents are unfit. Before appointing a guardian, the court asks whether appointing the guardian is in the child’s “best interests.” The linked article discusses the two standards in guardianship of minors. Read More.

Guardian of a Minor Web Video

Information on Becoming a Guardian of a Minor Child in Massachusetts

The Guardian of a Minor web video can be viewed on you tube in three parts:

Part One: Taking Care of a Child: What’s Best? Guardianship, A Caregiver Authorization Affidavit, or a Temporary Agent Authorization. Click on the link below to see Part One.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbCvHLk8mzY&feature=autoshare

Part Two: How to Become a Child’s Guardian, including Things to Know about Guardianship, 4 Steps to Becoming a Guardian, and Getting Legal Help. Click on the link below to see Part Two.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11VVZl89HGI&feature=autoshare

Part Three: A Guardian’s Role and Responsibilities, including a Guardian’s Duties to the Child and to the Court.Click on the link below to see Part Three.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06KdGk0qUxA&feature=autoshare

HELP PAGE

Here is the HELP PAGE where you will find information and web links to resources in the web video.

Part 1:  Taking Care of a Child- What’s Best?

Definitions

Adoption: A child can become free for adoption if the parents both sign voluntary adoption surrenders or if the Department of Children and Families has petitioned the Court to terminate the parents’ right to consent to their child’s adoption. When an adult chooses to adopt a child, that adult permanently assumes all of the rights and responsibilities of the child’s parent.

For more information, visit www.mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/family-services/adoption/.

Caregivers Authorization Affidavit: If a parent can care for a child and the child is living with a non-parent, like a Grandmother, an aunt or other trusted adult, a parent can consider a Caregivers Authorization Affidavit. The parent keeps custody of a child and names the non-parent as the caregiver. The parent and caregiver share the legal power to make health care and education decisions for the child. If this is best for the child, the parent and caregiver sign a Caregivers Authorization Affidavit form in front of 2 witnesses and a Notary Public, which is good for up to 2 years. No court approval is needed.

Foster Care: A child who has been placed in foster care is often removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or unsafe or dangerous conditions. The child is often placed in a foster home by the Department of Children and Families, which provides a safe and stable home environment. During this time, the Court and the Department of Children and Families are responsible for making all legal decisions affecting the child, while the foster parent is responsible for the day-to-day care of the child.

For more information, visit http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/family-services/foster-care/.

Guardian of a Minor: A guardian has almost the same powers and responsibilities of a parent regarding a child’s support, care, education, health and welfare.  The guardian can make many routine decisions about the child’s daily life, and unless the court orders otherwise, whether birth parents can visit the child.

Temporary Agent Authorization: A Temporary Agent is a person that the parents have appointed to carry out their responsibilities concerning the care, custody, or property of their minor child.The parent or guardian appoints the Temporary Agent in writing and sign the appointment in the presence of two witnesses over 18 years old.  The Temporary Agent must also accept the appointment in writing. The authorization is valid for 60 days and a parent or guardian can terminate or end as well as change the appointment.  They must notify all interested persons that they have ended or changed the appointment. No court approval is necessary.

Forms

Caregiver Authorization Affidavit

Instructions for filling out form

Temporary Agent Authorization

Part 2: Becoming a Child’s Guardian

Definitions

Court Appointed Guardian: A Court can appoint a guardian when the parents have died, if the parents have given written consent to the guardianship by signing a Notarized Waiver and Consent form, or if the Court finds the parents to be unavailable or unfit to care for the child.

Guardian of a Minor: A guardian has almost the same powers and responsibilities of a parent regarding a child’s support, care, education, health and welfare.  The guardian can make many routine decisions about the child’s daily life, and unless the court orders otherwise, whether birth parents can visit the child.

Forms

Petition for Appointment of a Guardian of a Minor

Bond

Decree and Order

** The Notice and Order and the Return of Serviceforms will be provided by the Court**

For other Court forms related to guardianship of a minor, please visit: http://www.mass.gov/courts/courtsandjudges/courts/probateandfamilycourt/upcforms.html#minor.

Legal Resources

Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library; Find a Lawyer

http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/lawyer/index.html

Part 3:  A Guardian’s Responsibilities

Duties of a Guardian to the Child: A guardian provides a stable home and has day-to-day responsibilities to ensure a child’s health, safety, and well-being. A guardian: makes doctor visits and ordinary medical decisions, helps with school and other activities, takes care of a child’s personal property, and uses a child’s money to support the child as well as saves for the future.

Duties of a Guardian to the Court: Every guardian must fill out and send to the Court the Annual Report of Guardian of a Minor as well as ask the Court’s permission to make certain kinds of decisions about a child’s health and care.

Court permission is necessary to:

  • Give antipsychotic medication
  • Consent to extraordinary medical treatments
  • Admit a child to a mental health or developmental disability facility
  • Resign as guardian or end the guardianship

Forms

Annual Report of Guardian of Minor

 

Petition for Removal of Guardian of a Minor

 

Petition for Resignation of Guardian of a Minor