Court appointment of a temporary guardian

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A temporary guardian is a person appointed for a short period of time in order to protect the immediate health and safety of a child under 18 years old.

How do I ask the court to become a temporary guardian?

Before asking to be a temporary guardian, you will ask the court to begin a guardianship case. You first will need to file the following documents:

  1. A Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor, which starts the court case.
  2. An Affidavit Disclosing Care and Custody, which asks for information regarding the custody of the child. 
  3. A Military Affidavit, which asks you to list if you or the parents are currently in the military.
  4. A fee waiver, called an Affidavit of Indigency (if you’re eligible - see Affidavit of indigency if you can't afford court costs.)
  5. A Bond, which is an enforceable promise to the court to faithfully carry out the legal duties of a guardian. (for more information, see What is the bond?)
  6. If the parents of the child agree to your petition to become the guardian, you will need to file a Notarized Waiver and Consent to Petition for Guardianship of Minor.

If the child is over 14 years old, they can also agree to the guardianship. If the child agrees, you will need to file a Notarized and Verified Consent or Nomination by Minor.

What if there is an emergency and the child needs a guardian appointed right away?

Along with the documents listed above, you can file a Verified Motion for Appointment of Temporary Guardian of a Minor. The court will appoint a temporary guardian for a child only if the judge believes:

  1. A guardian is necessary to stop serious harm to a child’s health, safety, or wellbeing, and
  2. There is no one else, such as a parent or other guardian, who is able to be responsible for and care for the child.

In particular, the Massachusetts law states that there needs to be “substantial harm to the health, safety or welfare of the minor (child) occurring prior to the return date (the evidentiary hearing date), and no other person appears to have authority to act in the circumstances. . . .” If you’d like to read the full law, you can review it here: Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 190B, Section 5-204(b).

After you file the motion, you will be assigned a court hearing in front of a judge.

What happens at the court hearing on the motion to appoint a temporary guardian of a minor?

The court hearing on a motion to appoint a temporary guardian of a minor is typically short and often does not include anyone other than the parties.

If the parents and the potential guardian agree to the temporary guardianship, the judge will grant the motion, or approve the person as the temporary guardian of the child.

If the parties do not agree, the judge will hear from both the potential guardian and the parents of the child. Both sides will give the court a summary or “representation” of what they want to happen. If the judge grants the motion, the Court will give you an Order Appointing Temporary Guardian of a Minor.

How long does a temporary guardianship of a minor last?

A judge can appoint a temporary guardian for up to 90 days. A judge could order less than 90 days for a temporary guardian of a minor. They can also add more time after the first order ends if there is a good reason.

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