Guardianship of a Minor: What to Expect

For most parents, there is nothing as terrifying as someone taking your child away from you.  It’s even more complicated when that someone is not the other parent of your child.

In Massachusetts, a third party can petition the probate courts for temporary and permanent guardianship.  Like traditional custody proceedings, the petitioner is required to give all parties notice of the proceeding.  Then all parties are called into court for a hearing.

So what makes the court grant guardianship to a third party?  The court will look at whether the parents are unfit and whether it is not in the best interests of the minor child to remain with the parents.  Parental unfitness is a high standard to meet.  Concern that a parent is sloppy, runs late, or is a poor communicator does not meet that heightened standard.  Evidence of a parent’s use of heroin or evidence of the parent’s exposure of the child to sexual assault is more likely to qualify.

If you are petitioning for guardianship, you should work with an attorney to compile your evidence and ensure that you can prove unfitness.  If your attorney advises you that you’re not in a position to meet your burden of proof, ask the parents if they would consent to your guardianship instead.