How to file for Guardianship in Alabama
While all guardianship cases are different, Alabama law prescribes that guardianship cases follow the same legal process. Below is an overview of the legal process for filing guardianship cases in Alabama.
Note: Before filing for guardianship, it is important that you seek assistance from an attorney well versed in the Alabama Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act or, if you wish to file on your own, that you review the law thoroughly.
1. You must file a Petition for Guardianship in the probate court where the person over whom you seek guardianship is a resident.
Note : A copy of the Petition for Guardianship must be served personally upon the person for whom you are seeking guardianship. Service must comply with Alabama law.
2. The probate judge will appoint a court representative. The court representative will provide an objective overview (in writing) of the case to the judge and you or your attorney. The court representative may or may not be an attorney. The court representative's fee is part of the court costs.
3. The probate judge will appoint a Guardian ad Litem (an attorney commonly referred to as a "GAL") to represent the person for whom you are seeking guardianship. The Guardian ad Litem's fee is part of the court costs.
4. The Court Representative and Guardian ad Litem will meet with and interview you and the person for whom you are seeking guardianship. They may also meet with any other party to the matter.
5. The probate judge will appoint a doctor to evaluate the person for whom you seek guardianship. Upon completion of his or her evaluation, the doctor will submit a written report to the probate judge with his or her recommendation for or against guardianship.
6. The judge will enter an order setting a hearing.
7. Notice of the hearing must be mailed (by the court) to family members (and others) entitled to notice under Alabama law.
Note: Notice by the court can be waived by family members so long as the family members sign a waiver and consent beforehand. The waiver portion of the document states that the family member does not need an official notice from the court of any hearings. The consent portion of the document states that the family member is in favor of you being appointed as guardian over the person for whom you are seeking guardianship.
8. A hearing is held.
Note: The hearing may be contested or uncontested. A contested hearing occurs when someone else wishes to be named as the guardian. That person usually files a counterpetition for guardianship and both parties are forced to produce evidence in court as to who should be named as guardian. An uncontested hearing occurs when no one else has filed to be named as guardian. An uncontested hearing means that you probably win without having to produce much evidence in court (and it is usually a lot less expensive).
9. A final decision is made by the probate judge and an order is entered.
10. Letters of Guardianship are issued (to you).
DISCLAIMER: The above is an overview of the process for filing for guardianship in Alabama. It is not exhaustive. It does not outline every detail. For example, while it states that the process for obtaining guardianship is initiated by filing a petition for guardianship, it does not include the details of what should be included in the actual petition for guardianship. The details are best provided by a competent attorney who works with you on your specific case.
How much does it cost to file for guardianship?
It depends. Typically, the following costs are associated with filing for guardianship:
1. Your attorney's fees.
2. Court costs.
Note: The following are generally included in court costs: 1) filing fees; 2) the Court Representative's fee; and 3) the Guardian ad Litem's fee.
There are 67 counties in Alabama and each charges differently for filing for guardianship. Before you file your petition for guardianship, call the probate court and ask about its costs and procedures. If your matter is contested or you believe it will be, have a serious conversation with your attorney about the financial ramifications of losing in court.
If I pay to file for guardianship, can I get reimbursed?
If you win, you are likely to be reimbursed for all costs, including your attorney's fees. Costs are generally reimbursable to the winning party and, if the matter is contested, usually charged against the losing party.
Always request that the judge enter an order allowing you to be reimbursed for all costs associated with being awarded guardianship. If your matter is contested or you believe it will be, have a serious conversation with your attorney about the financial ramifications of losing in court.
Do I have to have an attorney to assist with filing for guardianship?
No. But if you have questions about the details of filing for guardianship, it is a good indication that you need the assistance of an attorney.
An attorney well versed in the Alabama Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act can help reduce stress and costly mistakes in court.
Ask yourself: If I worked with a helpful, knowledgeable attorney, would it make the process easier for me (or would I have a better chance of winning)?
If you answered "yes," then you need the assistance of an attorney.
Alabama State Bar, Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 7.2 (e), requires the following language in all attorney communications: No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.
This blog post is made available by Helms Law Group, LLC for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. This blog post should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.
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