MA Supreme Court: indigent guardians may be appointed counsel

04/13/2017, Litigation, Custody Disputes - Children

In Guardianship of K.N., SJC-12195 (Mass. 2017), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that while guardians of children might be considered de facto parents in certain circumstances, their parenting interest was not a liberty interest justifying a due process right to appointed counsel in proceedings to remove the guardian.  


However, the court held that the Probate and Family Court could use its “broad” equitable powers to appoint counsel for an indigent guardian where it would assist in determining the best interests of the children or parental fitness, particularly “where the child or legal parent may be unwilling or unable to present a full picture of the case to the judge, whether because the guardian has all the necessary and relevant information about the child or the legal parent has an incentive to withhold information.”

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: yes