When heartbreaking stories of families torn apart by substance abuse, incarceration, immigration and untimely deaths make the news in Massachusetts, the silver lining is that aunt, grandparent, older sibling or even a friend who stepped forward to take care of the children. These children often become attached to their informal guardians. Some may not have a relationship with their biological parents at all.
However, unless that person files for guardianship, the stability of the family relationship can be disrupted at any time. According to Mass.gov, to make this request, the adult(s) will need to file the following documents:
- Bond (MPC 801)
- Affidavit Disclosing Care and Custody (OCAJ-1)
- Petition for Appointment of Guardian of a Minor (MPC 140)
- If the parent(s) agree(s) with the appointment, then file a Notarized Waiver and Consent to Petition (MPC 440)
- If the parent(s) or other interested parties disagree, then file a Military Affidavit (MPC 470)
There may be some additional paperwork, but these are the must-haves. Once all documents are filed, the court will send a Notice and Order for the hearing. Some people will have to be notified of the adult’s intent to take custody of the child as a guardian. These include the child’s parents if their rights have not been terminated and any current guardians. Both the petitioning guardian and the minor(s) have the right to an attorney.
After a successful appointment, guardians must file an annual report with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to update the court on the child’s wellbeing and the guardian’s ongoing eligibility. The form asks for information, such as whether or not the guardian has been investigated for abuse and if the child has moved locations. The state does not send reminders to file this report.
In situations where the parents may only be temporarily removed from the child’s life, adults may ask to be appointed as a caregiver instead. Mass.gov points out that becoming a caregiver requires much less paperwork and is generally considered a simpler process. Additionally, this allows children to maintain a relationship with their parents with the potential of a reunion in two years or so years.