In the case, Guardianship of V.V., the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that biological parents in private guardianship cases now have the right to free legal counsel in the probate court. In contrast, who will represent the guardian?
Biological parents have long had the right to court appointed attorneys in a narrow class of cases in which the state is seeking to terminate a parent's rights, such as in "care and protection" proceedings against the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
The rationale behind court appointed attorneys in DCF cases is easy to understand: without an attorney, parents would have little hope of prevailing against DCF attorneys who bring to bare the full power of the state.
However, guardianship proceedings in the Probate and Family Court are quite different from "care and protection" proceedings, which take place in Juvenile Court. Under these circumstances, the parents in a contested guardianship case are typically opposed by grandparents, aunts, or uncles.
These relatives often do not have attorneys, and the threat posed to parents by "the state" is not present in a routine guardianship case.
In contrast, guardians must pay for their own attorney (if they can afford one) out of pocket. The practical impact of the ruling, Guardianship of V.V., is that parents will now have a advantage against guardians in contested probate court proceedings.
Believing that everyone should be able to obtain legal services, Attorney Lazar's practice focuses on the needs of people of "modest means" - typically, those whose incomes put pro bono and subsidized legal assistance out of reach, but who also do not have a large budget for legal services.
Should you have questions regarding the guardianship of a minor, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar to schedule a free one hour no obligation either through email or telephone 978-844-4095.