Guardianship Law Addresses Jurisdictional Disputes

Guardianship proceedings to appoint a guardian for an incapacitated person often turn into battles between family members as to who will become the guardian.  In many of these disputes, one child files a petition to be appointed guardian of the incapacitated parent in Pennsylvania, while the other child starts a proceeding in New Jersey.

In the past, the parties relied on the courts of the different states to informally decide which court will have the authority to appoint a guardian for the incapacitated person. Moving the incapacitated person from jurisdiction to jurisdiction to gain a legal advantage has been referred to as “granny snatching”.

A new law will help the courts of Pennsylvania resolve these jurisdictional battles.   Signed on July 5, 2012 by Governor Tom Corbett, the law is known as the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act.  It provides the states adopting the Act with a methodology for resolving jurisdictional disputes.  To date, more than 30 states have adopted the Act.

In the Act’s procedure for establishing guardianship jurisdiction, there is a power granted to the court to assess reasonable expenses on a party that engages in unjustifiable conduct to invoke the court’s jurisdiction.  Those expenses can include attorneys fees.

Click here for a link to the final version of House Bill No. 1720.  The legislation becomes effective on September 5, 2012.