Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Graduation and guardianship

This week, two life-changing moments met at the crossroads of irony and coincidence.

Yesterday, I got an email from Matthew's teacher asking if we had ordered his cap and gown yet. I'm in the middle of a somewhat busy week, and my first reaction was, "arrrgh, not another thing I have to do."

And then it hit me:  cap and gown.

As in, Matthew's high school graduation.

I put the order in for a gown that will fit someone 6'1 and approximately 120 pounds (probably less.)

High school graduation comes as a rite of passage, and for most high school seniors, it's the moment where they start thinking of themselves as "adults".  They go to college, get jobs, date, marry, etc. We consider them "grown-ups" and expect them to (eventually) be out on their own, living on their own, being independent.

The irony?

Today Frank, Matthew and I were at a court hearing where we took those rights away from Matthew.
Because Matthew has autism, we've had him evaluated to see if he's legally competent to handle his own affairs, and the opinion is that no, he is not.  I agree with that opinion.  Since Matthew is 18, the law considers him an adult, and therefore, legally responsible for the consequences of his actions, whether for good or for ill, whether he understands those consequences or not.  However, if an interested party can show that it's in Matthew's best interests to have a guardian appointed to look after his interests, the law will allow for the appointment of a guardian.

Frank and I filed paperwork in December to be appointed as Matthew's legal guardians.  Our court hearing was today, and our petition for guardianship was granted.  As of today, my legal standing in regards to Matthew is not that of "parent".  It is that of "legal guardian".  When a person becomes the ward of a legal guardian, they give up the right to control their own property and the right to make certain important decisions.  Matthew cannot enter into any legal agreements or contracts (including marriage) without my permission/approval.  And among other things, if we move to another state or move Matthew to another state, we have to get permission from the court to do so.

So all the stuff that comes with high school graduation--freedom, independence, etc--will not come with Matthew's high school graduation.  Instead, he'll still live at home, still with his parents making decisions on his behalf.  In Matthew's case, it's the right thing to do, because as smart as he is, and as capable as he is, legally, he just isn't competent to handle those types of freedoms.

It's extremely odd to hear a judge state, regarding your child, that "the court finds that he lacks sufficient capacity to . . ."  Although you know it's true, and you know you're doing the right thing, to hear it worded in such a way, from an officer of the court, just sounds so, well, final.

This week, we ordered a cap and gown for a graduation.

This week, we legally took rights away from our son, for his own protection.

How ironic it is that they both happened in the same week, on back-to-back days.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

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