Kinship Legal Guardianship
If a child’s parents are unable to care for him or her, a family member or close family friend may step forward and petition the court to become a kinship legal guardian. When the DCP&P (Division of Child Protection and Permanency) places a child with relatives instead of a foster family, a kinship legal guardian will assume legal custody of the child, while the parents retain limited rights.
Becoming a kinship legal guardian is a separate and somewhat complicated process, and there are many requirements that the person must meet before the court can make a decision.
To be granted kinship legal guardianship, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- You must have lived with the child for at least the last 12 months or more
- The child’s parents must be incapacitated or otherwise unable to care for the child
- You must be a relative of the child or a family friend
- You must show the court that it is in the child’s best interest to stay with you
- You must be financially eligible to care for the child
Once you meet these eligibility criteria, you can ask the court to appoint you as the child’s kinship legal guardian. If granted, you could have many of the legal rights as the parent, but the parents would still retain limited parental rights.
Some of the legal rights of a kinship legal guardian include:
- Determining daily caregiving decisions
- Providing medical consent for routine and emergency healthcare
- Formulating educational decisions, including enrolling the child in school
- Applying for services for the child
- Make other important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing
Kinship legal guardians have many responsibilities, as well. On a daily basis, they must ensure the child is safe and that his or her needs are met. Accordingly, they must take steps to become a licensed resource family (i.e. foster family) in the State of New Jersey, which involves a home inspection and background checks on all adults in the household. If the child is involved in a child welfare case, the DCP&P should take steps to help the family become a licensed resource family within five days of the child being placed in the home. Once a kinship legal guardian obtains this license, he or she is eligible for a kinship care subsidy that provides a monthly stipend for expenses like room, board, and health insurance.
It is important to remember that kinship legal guardians do not have complete authority over the child. For instance, they do not have the right to consent to an adoption of the child, nor can they change the child’s name. Kinship legal guardians also do not have the right to withhold the child from seeing his or her parents unless there is a court order.
Do you have questions about kinship care? If you are a family member or close family friend and are seeking guardianship of a child, the attorneys at the Williams Law Group, LLC can help you become a licensed resource family and apply for kinship legal guardianship so you can provide proper care for the child in question. These types of court actions can be complicated, especially if the Division of Child Protection and Permanency is involved. But an attorney can help you do what it takes to ensure the child in question has a safe and loving home in which to stay.
Located in Union, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at [email protected], or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation so you can work with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.