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 Guardianship Hearings
After reopening the circuit courts in June 2020, the circuit courts, as of December 2020, entered modified court openings. Each county will have its own unique policy on in-person vs. remote hearing rules. However, the general rule, as of now, is that uncontested guardianship will continue to be remotely held for the foreseeable future. For contested guardianships, this is on a case by case basis. If there is a strong inclination for in-person or remote hearing for a contested matter, this request should be made expressly to the court. The other developing matter is the time between when a petition for guardianship is filed and perfected and the eventual hearing date. That is a continuing to be fluid issue that is impacted by the court closings and the regular rescheduling of court cases.
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.