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Parents have the right to a court-appointed lawyer in guardianship cases

If your child is under 18 and involved in a guardianship case, you have the right to a lawyer. If your income is so low you cannot afford a lawyer, you have the right to a court-appointed lawyer.

It is important for you to have a lawyer if your child is in a guardianship case. Even if you agree with the reasons for going to court, a lawyer can advise you and present your case to the judge 

You have the right to a court-appointed lawyer if:

  • You need to ask the court to
    • appoint a guardian for your child.
    • end the guardianship.
    • change something in the guardianship like parenting time or visitation.
  • Someone else is asking the court to
    • appoint a guardian for your child.
  • Your child is asking the court to
    • appoint a guardian for themself.

Important

The court will appoint a lawyer for your child if the judge decides your child needs one.

Appointing a guardian

In cases where you, your child, or someone else asks the court to appoint a guardian for your child, and your income is so low you cannot afford a lawyer, you have the right to a court-appointed lawyer.

In this kind of case the person that asks the court to appoint a guardian files a Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor.

If you cannot afford a lawyer,  see How do I ask for a lawyer in a Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor case?

Ending a guardianship

When you ask the court to end the guardianship, you file a Petition for Removal of Guardian of Minor.

You have the right to a court-appointed lawyer if

  • your income is so low that you cannot afford a lawyer, and
  • you can show the judge your case has “merit .”

See How do I ask for a lawyer in a Petition for Removal of Guardian of Minor or General Petition to modify?

Changing something about the guardianship

When you ask the court to change something about the guardianship like parenting time or visitation, you file a “General Petition to modify or change a guardian of minor decree”.

You have the right to a court-appointed lawyer if

  • your income is so low that you cannot afford a lawyer, and
  • you can show the judge your case has “merit .”

See How do I ask for a lawyer in a Petition for Removal of Guardian of Minor or General Petition to modify?

Why is it important for me to have a lawyer in a guardianship case?

When your child is involved in a guardianship case, your lawyer can help you deal with important issues like:

  • if your child needs a guardian,
  • if your child needs a different guardian,
  • your parenting time, birthday, holiday, or visitation schedule,
  • your access to your child’s medical, counseling, and educational records,
  • talking to your child’s doctors, counselors, and teachers,
  • going to your child’s school and extra-curricular events, and
  • communicating with the guardian about your child.
Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp with consultation from Attorney Laura Gal, Community Legal Aid
Created September, 2016

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