If your parent or loved one needs someone to make decisions for them, then they will need to have a court-appointed guardian. The main issue for establishing guardianships during the COVID-19 pandemic is the issue of timing.
In Maryland, the normal, non-emergency adult guardianship process is started by filing a petition. After that, it would typically take 6–8 weeks before a hearing would be held to determine who the court was going to appoint as guardian. That has changed under COVID-19 rules.
Maryland Court Hearings are Suspended
The circuit courts reopened as of June 8, 2020. However, it is not clear at this point what the time frame will be between filing for guardianship and when a hearing will be heard. It is expected that uncontested guardianship matters will be spread throughout the day instead of being heard all at once in a courtroom full of people. For a contested guardianship, it is expected that there may be an unusual delay in getting a hearing date as matters scheduled but delayed because of the court closures will likely be heard first before new matters. That means that it is highly likely that contested matters will be pushed back.
Some courts are moving towards video conferences for uncontested guardianships. But this is not a uniform rule as of now. There are also exceptions for this general rule that allow for emergency matters to be heard on an expedited matter.
How to Push Your Guardianship Case Forward During COVID-19
For uncontested matters or matters of limited scope, the best path to proceed is to have all the attorneys in your particular guardianship case cooperate to push for a video hearing. The court is likely going to be more receptive to video hearings if all interested parties are represented by counsel.
The situation is more complicated, however, if the guardianship case is contested—meaning at least two individuals are fighting over who should be appointed as guardian. As long as the alleged disabled person is in a safe environment, then getting a court date in the near future for contested guardianship will be problematic.
Here are some other options you can explore:
- Mediations, which can occur remotely, are encouraged. They can be a way to resolve a contested guardianship matter much sooner than having a court rule in a contested matter that may not be set for many months.
- What also could be explored is having the interested parties consent to the temporary appointment of a guardian. A key part of this discussion should include agreeing that the temporary guardian is not only limited in time but also has very limited powers. This may be a creative way to address the very urgent decisions now while delaying more complex issues for a court date many months from now.
We’re Here to Help During COVID-19
We understand that these are uncertain times. Now, more than ever, is when your loved ones need you to be their advocate in planning for the future.
As an experienced elder law firm in Maryland, we’re happy to guide you through your guardianship case. Please call us at 410-296-8166 x292.