Monday, January 4, 2010

Guardianship and Watts Hearings in Wisconsin

By John DiMotto

One of the most difficult decisions a judge makes is when he/she orders a guardianship and a protective placement.

While a guardianship and a protective placement is often necessary due to dementia, stroke, serious and persistent mental illness or other like incapacities, it still involves handing over the "life reins" of an individual to another person.

In many cases the person who is the subject of the hearing is completely incapacitated and cannot do anything for himself/herself. However, there are those individuals who are just "over the border" of incompetence but who still want to control their own lives and destiny. These are the tough cases.

The ultimate decision that must be made in the "close cases" is whether it is the incompetence that has caused the problem or whether it is a person who has decided - and the key word is "decided" - to make a choice that perhaps you or I would never make. People have the freedom to make poor choices. However, it must be a "choice." In every city, you see homeless people. If it is a lifestyle that is "chosen" by a person who is not incompetent, society cannot not intervene as a super parent and reverse that decision.

When a guardianship and protective placement is ordered, the case does not disappear from the radar of the court. It must be reviewed every year to make sure that the placement is the least restrictive given the circumstances of the person. Original placement in a nursing home may no longer be appropriate and transfer to a group home or independent apartment may be in order. This is what is known as a Watts Hearing. Every person under a guardianship and protective placement is entitled to an annual review. This ensures that no one "falls through the cracks." This ensures that the restrictions on liberty are only to the degree necessitated by an individual's incapacity.

Watts Hearings do create a lot of work for the court system, but it is necessary work in a society that promises liberty and justice for all.


  1. for some this is true. but not for all. i believe guardianship should be listen to! my mother can not make a good decision on where she lives! she has dementia and when she asked if she happy where she at she says no. she in a beeauitful assisted living apt. when the review comes it just starts over again. then she angry with us! she is in the least restrict place. her memory will not get better! so sad! but I believe thre come a time for these review come to and end. we all need to have some peace. im tierd of the angr when we know nothing will change for her! I hope someone can understand it is enough for her and the family!!!!!!

  2. i have a guardian that is my mother and it all happened because i tried commiting suicide and didnt want the state overtaking it! also been on protective placememt in the least restrictive environment. now i have a gf ive been datting since january 31st and she is a smart one. i have court for a watts review to decide if i need protective placement or not! my mother/guardian has been taking advantage of me by watching my baby brother and by money! i gave all the evidence i can grab on this issue. that baby daddy of my baby brother aint around so my mom has me pay half of the bills cuz she says my baby brother is my responsibility n hes not, hes my mothers responsibility so therefore i should be paying 1/3 of the bills. so with money exploitation and the mental and emotional abuse i go through aint right knowing shes my guardian and even my mother. my mom liked my gf and said she could see us growing old together and 2 1/2 months ago, it all went downhill! now, she kicked me out under her place where i was protectively placed and said why cant u stay where you have stayed for some time? i told her because i pay bills where i was protectively placed and she wouldnt let me come back to get my things/belongings unless i signed a piece of paper stating the money that i owed her n i said no to that and said, ur not coming back to get ur things and ur not moving back in! i never moved out in the first place. i need someone to get back to me on this issue cuz i need some legal advice on this. thank u

    1. The issues you raise are rather complex. You would be well served to hire a lawyer to represent your interests in the upcoming Watts review and your guardianship.