17 Kids and the Law How can custody be awarded to a guardian? Parents can choose to appoint an adult to become the guardian of their child while they are still alive but unable to care for the child; they can also name in their will a guardian to care for their child upon their death. Under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 190B, an adult or a child who is 14 or older can petition the Probate and Family Court to appoint a guardian to care for a child. This change of custody can be with or without the consent of one or both parents. If the parent or parents do not consent to the petition for guardianship, there will be a court hearing. At the hearing, the petitioner (the person asking for the guardianship) tries to prove that the parents are not fit to care for the child and that it would be in the child’s best interests to be in the petitioner’s custody. Even if the court allows the petition and appoints a guardian, the parents’ rights are not terminated. A child age 14 or over must consent to guardianship. What are a guardian’s limitations? While a guardian is responsible for a child’s routine medical care, the guardian does not have the authority to make decisions about extraordinary medical treatment, including giving the child certain prescribed medications, without an order from the court (after a “Rogers” hearing). A guardian may not move the child out of Massachusetts without the court’s permission. A guardian is required to file an annual report with the court con- cerning the child. What is a caregiver? Parents or guardians can choose to allow another adult with whom the child lives to make health care and educational decisions for the child. They can sign a Caregiver Authorization Affidavit that allows the caregiver to act with- out needing to consult with them. The parents’ or guardians’ signatures must be witnessed, but the form does not need to be filed with any court and the parents or guardians do not lose their rights. This permission form can remain in effect for up to two years. Another form can be signed at the end of each two-year period. The laws covering caregivers are found in Massachusetts General Laws chapter 201F. Families: Rights and Responsibilities 1