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A contested guardianship: What you should know

Guardianship is a powerful legal tool. When properly established, this arrangement can help an individual ensure an incapacitated loved one receives the care and attention they need. But because guardianship involves altering a person’s decision-making responsibilities, the courts provide a pathway to contest such a designation.

What happens when an existing adult guardianship is contested? Here is an explanation.

Filing a petition is the first step

While challenging a guardianship is possible, it cannot be done by anybody. An interested party must take the first step of filing a petition with the court. An interested party could be:

  • The ward themselves (that’s the term for the person who has a guardian)
  • A family member of the ward
  • Another individual affected by the guardianship

This petition, which needs to be filed with the court from which the guardianship originated, then triggers a guardianship hearing process.

What happens next

Following the filing of a petition, a few things will happen.

A judge will review the petition in question and likely schedule a hearing. A guardian ad litem may also be appointed to act as an investigator and scrutinize all aspects of the case. During the hearing, both sides can present evidence – one in support of retaining the current guardianship arrangement, the other in support of ending or changing it.

The ward has the right to be present and involved in this hearing. They are also entitled to a jury, and representation from an attorney.

The judge, after the hearing, will issue an order. The order might:

  • Dismiss the petition and maintain the existing guardianship
  • Modify the powers of the guardian to better suit the situation
  • Terminate the guardianship
  • Appoint a successor guardian to take over the role

Being involved in a contested guardianship case is likely not an ideal situation. However, with the right legal approach, you can help ensure your loved one comes out of this with all the proper support and protections.