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Probate Court Process

Certain relatives are allowed to seek custody and guardianship orders from the probate court. There are a few different legal mechanisms by which a relative could obtain custody orders through the probate court.

Standby Guardianship

First, Connecticut General Statutes §45a-624 states that “A parent or guardian, as principal, may designate a standby guardian of a minor in accordance with the provisions of sections 45a-624 to 45a-624g, inclusive. Such designation, in a form as provided in section 45a-624b, shall take effect upon the occurrence of a specified contingency, including, but not limited to, the mental incapacity, physical debilitation or death of the principal, provided a written statement signed under penalty of false statement has been executed pursuant to section 45a-624c that such contingency has occurred. A designation of a standby guardian shall be in writing and signed and dated by the principal with at least two witnesses. The principal shall provide a copy of such designation to the standby guardian.”

For families substance abuse, domestic violence, and/or mental health issues, standby guardianship allows them to make provisions for the care and custody of a minor child without the involvement of the court system and/or DCF.

Relatives Seeking Removal of a Parent

Second, a relative could start a cause of action in probate court seeking to remove a parent. The Connecticut Probate Court has stated that “One or both parents of a minor may be removed as guardian of the person by a Probate Court if the court finds certain conditions to be present, or if the parent consents to be removed as guardian. Any adult relative of the minor or an attorney representing the minor may file an application for the removal of one or both parents as guardian in the Probate Court for the district in which the minor resides. Under certain circumstances, the court may also initiate such an action on its own motion.”

The probate court process is very similar to the procedures followed if DCF brings the action in the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters. However, the main difference in the probate process is the somewhat diminished role of DCF. The DCF’s involvement will include a study of any adult seeking to obtain temporary custody of a child. More specifically, “When an application for removal of a guardian has been filed, the court will, in most cases, order an investigation and report to be completed by DCF. An investigation is required in cases where the applicant has alleged, or the probate judge has reason to believe, that the minor child has been abused or neglected. The DCF investigation and report will include facts that may be relevant to the court’s determination whether the action sought will be in the child’s best interest.”

The Bottom Line

This overview does not capture all the complexity of a probate case where a relative seeks to remove a parent. If you are a grandparent or relative and believe that you need the help of the probate court, you should consider using the services of an attorney who thoroughly understands the probate legal system. Contact The Law Offices of John J. Ghidini today to discuss your case »