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Giving another person guardianship over a child

There are certain cases where Massachusetts parents may need to name a short- or long-term guardian for their child. While the process for naming a short-term guardian is fairly simple and quick, appointing a long-term guardian for a child can be more difficult depending on the court system.

Short-term guardians are generally chosen if a parent will not be caring for a child for a certain period of time. For example, if the parent is ill, being deployed or if the child is spending part of their vacation elsewhere, the arrangement usually does not require the approval of the court. Even so, the parent may still need to provide written permission that allows the guardian to seek medical treatment for the child.

If parents cannot provide their child with proper care for a lengthier period of time, giving legal guardianship to another adult, such as a grandparent or family friend, may be an alternative to surrendering parental rights. This option also allows the child to stay with someone he or she may already have a relationship with instead of going into the foster care system. The guardian will still have legal and physical custody, meaning that the parent will not have a say in the daily life of the child.

Because the process for signing over legal guardianship to another person is a lengthy and complex process, a family law attorney can help a parent understand the process. The attorney can also help the parent request visitation rights. An attorney who does not believe that this is the best option for the parent might recommend other alternatives that better fit the child's and the parent's needs.

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