Maryland Process of Becoming a Guardian of a Minor
Maryland process of becoming a guardian of a minor starts with filing a petition to be the guardian of the person or guardian of the property of the minor with the court in the appropriate jurisdiction. After a review of the pleading, there is a period for all interested persons to respond or to object to the pleading. In the event that there is no response by any individuals, it is possible that the court may appoint a guardian without a hearing. In other cases, a judge or a court will require a hearing and, depending on the nature of the responses or objections, the process may require a one-time hearing or several hearings for the judge to make a determination in the best interest of the child and appoint a guardian of the person or guardian of the property.
After the appointment, there are initial reports that are required, including a guardianship report that outlines the current living situation, the education and the status of the minor child, as well as the initial inventory of the assets, if a guardian of the property has been appointed. After that, there are continued reports due to the court regarding the status of the minor child and also regarding the accountings of the assets for the minor child.
A Maryland guardianship lawyer can assist an individual who wishes to petition for guardian of a child by reviewing their qualifications and advising them on whether or not their petition may be successful, as well as what their duties and obligations may be if and when they are appointed as guardian.
Filing a Petition
Often in the Maryland process of becoming a guardian of a minor, family members file to become guardians of the minor. In some situations in Maryland, guardianship petitions are filed by a surviving parent where a child has inherited assets from the other parent. Typically, an individual must be appointed a guardian of the property to accept assets on behalf of the minor child. In other situations, though, where both parents are unable, unwilling or have pre-deceased the minor child, a family member or very close friend of the family petitions the court to act on behalf of the minor child.
In these type of situations, it is helpful for parents to have nominated guardians in their last wills and testaments. Sometimes, it is the nominated individual(s) who are petitioning to serve as guardian(s).
Descendants under the age of 18 cannot hold property in the state of Maryland in their own name. Included in the process of becoming a guardian of a minor that someone petition the court to serve as the guardian of the property on their behalf.
Maryland takes a bifurcated approach to guardians and provides for the guardian of the person and the guardian of property. The guardian of the person would be the individual who makes decisions about where the child would live, healthcare, education, and other matters. The guardian of the property would be the individual who is in charge or has a fiduciary obligation to manage the child’s estate until they turn 18. In Maryland, a guardian procedure is initiated by a petition by somebody who wishes to serve as guardian of the property.
Role of the Courts
In most cases, an attorney would be appointed to serve on behalf of the minor. Sometimes the court will appoint a guardian without a hearing, but many times the court will require a hearing. After the hearing, an individual appointed guardian of the property will have to file an inventory with the courts and file subsequent accounting each year, indicating how the assets were dispensed to the parties and providing receipts were necessary to show how the assets have been managed on behalf of the ward. The Maryland process of becoming a guardian of a minor is a costly and time-consuming process and is often one that is easily avoided by doing some estate planning prior to death.
Guardian Ad Litem
A guardian ad litem is appointed on behalf of the minor child for each guardianship petition. Guardian ad litem is an attorney who is appointed to serve as the attorney for the minor child during the Maryland process of becoming a guardian of a minor. They are an independent attorney that represents the best interest of the child and are appointed in every case for the minor child.
When minor children are fourteen years or older in Maryland, they may be able to participate in their hearing. Children fourteen years old or older often have a say in the appointment of their guardian. In the case that the minor contests the appointment of the guardian, then it becomes part of the evidence that the judge reviews when making the determination of who serves in the best interest of the child.
The process of becoming a guardian of a minor in Maryland can be a costly process and it can be time-consuming. The overall process requires continued court supervision throughout the term of the guardianship proceedings. In cases where the guardianship may be contested, the result could be a very costly proceeding before any individual is appointed to serve on behalf of a minor child. In addition, the process can also be emotionally tolling and it can be difficult where there is some contention over who serves as the guardian.
In addition, there are a number of factors that the court looks at to determine what is in the best interest of the child. Some of those factors include evidence of good character of the guardian, the guardian’s abilities to manage money, and the guardian’s relationship with the minor child. The guardian may also need to be bonded which would require some background checking in the guardian’s previous management of assets.