In the wake of the opioid epidemic that was declared a public health crisis in 2017, there has been an uptick in the number of children needing care that their parents are unable to provide to them. In many cases, grandparents are stepping up as guardians to their grandchildren, many who were planning to retire or already were retired.
A variety of troubles may cause grandparents to seek guardianship of a grandchild. In a growing number of cases, parents may struggle with an uncontrolled/untreated substance addiction, or a physical or mental illness that renders them unfit to care for their children. Unfortunately, this has become a common catalyst for grandparents to seek guardianship of a grandchild.
Grandparents seeking a guardianship will find that the process can be overwhelming. One of the first steps that should be taken following the decision to move forward with a guardianship Petition, is to hire an experienced Family Law attorney. One with the experience to explain the laws, prepare the extensive paperwork, gather evidence in support of the Petition, and guide them through the court process.
- A Guardianship Petition and supporting legal documents must be drafted, filed with the Court and lawfully served on all interested persons.
- Medical, academic, financial or other records that support the Petition must be gathered.
- Helpful witnesses must be interviewed, and their testimony presented in support of the Petition.
- If there is an urgent concern for a child’s safety, a Motion to Appoint a Temporary Guardian may be necessary. This will be filed along with the Guardianship Petition.
- Ultimately, the Grandparents may seek authority to make decisions affecting the child’s day to day care and upbringing, medical care, education, legal matters and finances.
These cases require more than knowledge of the law and the local Probate Court.
The issues often are emotional and personal. The lawyer must assess not only the facts and the law, but the relationship between the adults. Alleviating potential family strain must be part of the plan.
In some cases, funds may be accumulating in an account or trust for the child’s benefit. If so, a Grandparent also may ask to serve as the child’s conservator. A conservator is a court-appointed person who manages a person’s assets and money. A separate petition would be filed along with the Guardianship Petition asking the Court to appoint a conservator.
A grandparent or other family member who is concerned about the care of a grandchild, or a child relative, should consult with a lawyer who understands the Massachusetts Probate Court system and guardianship practice for advice about filing a guardianship case.
Our attorneys are experienced with a variety of guardianships and conservatorships. We will guide you through the process, assess the needs of your loved one, gather the appropriate medical documentation, and obtain the necessary orders.
Partner, Jeffrey P. Greenberg
339 Main Street, Suite 300
Worcester, MA 01608
Attorney Jeffrey Greenberg has extensive experience representing grandparents (and other fiduciaries) in guardianships of minors as well as conservatorships and guardianships for incapacitated adults. He is a certified mediator and does extensive divorce conciliation. He regularly represents families and individuals in need of experienced and personalized guidance through the Massachusetts Trial Court system.