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What is Guardianship of a Minor?

According to the State of New Jersey Department of Human Services:

 

A guardian is a person or agency that is legally authorized to act on behalf of a minor or an incapacitated adult to assure that the person’s health, safety, and welfare needs are met and that his or her rights are protected. The duties of a guardian also include making decisions on behalf of the individual and giving informed consent in certain matters. However, the guardian is required to involve the person in decision-making to the extent that his or her abilities permit.

 

The State of New Jersey provides financial assistance to those who are caring for their grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or other children through what is known as the Kinship Care Subsidy Program. Kinship guardianship is one of the most common forms of guardianship of a minor in New Jersey but is an arrangement which has far-reaching implications for the life of the child.

Once the child lives under the guardianship of another individual, the biological parents lose all rights to the child – even though they may still contact and interactions with the child. The biological parents, however, still maintain some obligations to the child, including the obligation to pay child support.

 

The state considers guardianship only when it is clearly necessary – and only to the extent that it is required by the child.

There are a variety of options for processing a guardianship of a minor:

 

  • A relative or another interested party may choose to pursue appointment as guardian privately, at his or her own expense. This option is the only one when guardianship of both person and property is sought.
  • The Division of Developmental Disabilities can facilitate the court action at no charge for the legal costs. A family member or other interested party may be designated guardian of the person only, not of his or her property.
  • A family member who is unable or unwilling to serve as guardian may propose another appointee.
  • A family member who is unable or unwilling to serve as guardian may accept the appointment of the Division’s Bureau of Guardianship Services as guardian of the person.
Grandparent Guardianship
Guardianship of a Minor

Requirements for Kinship Legal Guardianship

The State of New Jersey applies specific requirements for anyone seeking to apply for kinship legal guardianship over a minor. The conditions are:

 

  • It is in the best interests of the child to remain in the person’s care.
  • The person can financially care for the child.
  • The child has been under their care for at least 12 months.
  • The biological parents of the child cannot care for the child.
  • The person is a relative of the child or a family friend.

Kinship Legal Guardianship Rights

According to New Jersey legal statutes, kinship legal guardians have the same authority, rights and responsibilities as the child’s biological parents, including, but not limited to:

 

  • Deciding about the child’s care and well-being
  • Arranging to educational plans for the child
  • Ensuring the continued safety of the child
  • Ensuring proper maintenance and protection of the child
  • Consenting to routine or emergency medical care for the child

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The Guardianship Process

If an individual is seeking to apply for kinship legal guardianship over a minor, they must contact the Department of Human Services Kinship Navigator Program at 1-877-816-3211. Once reached, the Kinship Navigator Program will assign one of four regional agencies to conduct an assessment on behalf of the Kinship Care Subsidy Program.  This assessment must be completed before any court action may be filed by the caregiver. This motion is known as a “Petition to Start the Kinship Legal Guardianship Process.”

Assessment

The agency which has been tasked with conducting the assessment will conduct background checks on the caregiver, as well as any other adults living with the caregiver, as well as a thorough inspection of the home. In addition, the agency must fill out an assessment form providing the court with the following information:

  • Basic information about the caregiver, child, parents, and other members of the caregiver’s household including their names and addresses.
  • The caregiver’s ability to provide a safe and permanent home for the child.
  • A certified statement that the child has lived with the caregiver for at least the previous 12 months.
  • The location of the child’s biological parents, the reasons they are unable to care for their child, and their wishes concerning kinship legal guardianship.
  • The child’s wishes if the child is age 12 or older or there are other reasons why the child’s wishes should be heard.
  • A list of any assets or property owned by the child.
  • Whether the child is involved with the Department of Child Protection.

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney Today

Family law has the potential to be the most contentious of all legal disputes. This is especially true when it comes to the care and protection of minors. If you are seeking a kinship legal guardianship, or are just considering your legal options, give The Law Offices of James C. DeZao P.A a call today at (855) 432-2489 for a consultation from one of our experienced,
knowledgeable – and most importantly caring – family law attorneys.

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