Guardianship, also referred to as conservatorship, is a legal process wherein a person is appointed as the guardian of another person by a court of law. The person who is placed under the care of a guardian is called a ward. It can be a minor or an adult who is incapacitated as a result of old age, infirmity, or developmental disabilities.

Guardianship of a Minor

Under Massachusetts law, a child under the age of eighteen can be placed under the custody of a guardian under the following circumstances.

  • If the parents are unavailable
  • If the parents are unable to provide the level of care needed for the child

The court-appointed guardian of a minor generally has the same level of authority as a parent with respect to the child’s health and wellbeing, education, and financial interests. The guardian also has the authority – unless overruled by a court of law – to decide whether or not the birth parents can visit their child.

Guardianship of an Adult

Under Massachusetts law, an adult can be placed under the care of a guardian if they are suffering from an illness or a condition as a result of which they are:

  • Unable to communicate effectively with others
  • Unable to care for themselves
  • Unable to make decisions about their safety and wellbeing

It should be noted that being placed under the care of a guardian does not completely strip a ward of their rights and independence. If a ward is completely incapacitated, the guardian might be granted the authority to make all personal decisions on their behalf. Otherwise, the guardian’s authority might be limited only to those areas where the ward’s abilities are impaired.

In some cases, two or more people might compete with each other for the guardianship of a child or an adult. In such a scenario, you generally have two options – litigation (taking the dispute to court) and mediation (resolving the dispute peacefully with the help of a neutral third party).

Most legal experts are of the opinion that mediation is a much better option than litigation when it comes to settling guardianship disputes. There are two key reasons why they believe so.

Reduced Costs

In order to take your guardianship dispute to court, you need to hire a qualified attorney who can represent you in court. Depending on where you live, the credentials of the attorney you choose to hire, and the firm they represent, the fees could be substantial.

In addition to the cost of hiring an attorney, there are a number of other expenses associated with the process of litigation – from filing fees to witness fees, service fees, appeal fees, and more.

When it comes to mediation, you only need to pay the mediator who works with all the parties involved to resolve the dispute in an amicable manner.

Faster Way to Settle Disputes

It is no secret that litigation is a time-consuming and cumbersome process. It can take several months or even years to legally resolve your dispute. And if one of the parties involved is not happy with the outcome, they can file an appeal with a higher court and try to get a decision in their favor.

With mediation, you can resolve a dispute within a span of a few weeks. Since the process is not adversarial in nature, it is easier for the parties involved to find common ground and resolve the dispute in a mutually beneficial manner.

Resolving Guardianship Disputes through Mediation

If you are facing a guardianship dispute, taking the dispute to court may not be necessary. By opting for mediation, you can settle your dispute without the cost and time-consuming consequences often associated with litigation. 

To speak to a guardianship mediator in Massachusetts, contact Shapiro Mediation Services at (339) 298-7733 or complete our online contact form.

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