Fundamentals of Kinship Legal Guardianship in New Jersey
Establishing Kinship Legal Guardianship in Clifton, Ringwood, Wayne, Totowa, Woodland Park, and across Passaic County
Kinship legal guardianship (KLG) is a program offered in New Jersey in which a court order can construct a legal relationship between a child and an adult who is not the child’s parent. Many elements can yield a kinship legal guardianship in The State of New Jersey, including but not limited to mental illness, incarceration, substance use disorder, alcoholism, disability, or temporary incapacitation due to an accident.
Typically, the adult is a relative or a close family friend and often has a biological connection to the child or relation in a legally related capacity. The adult becomes responsible for the child’s welfare and may make decisions about the child’s education, medical care, and religious upbringing. A court may designate a kinship legal guardian if it is in the child’s best interests. The court will consider the child’s age and relationship with the proposed guardian, the guardian’s ability to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs, and any other factors that the court deems relevant.
Distinguishing KLG from Adoption
Adoption and Kinship Legal Guardianship are two separate processes. Kinship legal guardianship does not require the termination of parental rights, as adoption does. Kinship legal guardianship does not create a legal parent-child relationship between the guardian and the child; instead, it simply gives the guardian certain rights and responsibilities concerning the child. Finally, kinship legal guardianship is generally less permanent than adoption and can be terminated by either the guardian or the child’s parent at any time.
A primary difference between the two is that kinship legal guardianship is a legal relationship between a child and a relative or between a child and an adult of a close relation. In contrast, adoption is a legal process whereby an adult becomes the permanent parent of a child.
Conditions for Eligibility as a Kinship Legal Guardian in New Jersey
A kinship legal guardian is a relative appointed by a court to care for a child. The kinship legal guardian must be at least 18 years of age and a blood relative or have a close relationship with the child in a legal sense. There are some additional eligibility conditions; having been a caregiver of the child for 12 months, being a resident of New Jersey, having the ability to provide a safe and nurturing home for the child, undergoing a criminal background check, and showing financial stability.
Steps for Becoming a KLG in New Jersey
In New Jersey, becoming a kinship legal guardian differs according to the specific situation and circumstances, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The primary steps are meeting the eligibility requirements discussed above. Once you have met the criteria, you may apply to become a kinship legal guardian with the New Jersey courts. It may also be necessary to complete any required training or education courses. Once verified as a suitable match, you may be approved by the court to serve as a kinship legal guardian.
Kinship Legal Guardianship Obligations
When serving as a KLG in New Jersey, you are responsible for the child’s well-being, including ensuring that the child receives an education and medical care. You must also provide a safe and nurturing home environment and be prepared to meet the child’s physical and emotional needs.
Your Rights if Approved for Kinship Legal Guardianship
As a KLG, you have the right to make decisions regarding the child’s care and welfare, including education, medical treatment, and religious upbringing. For instance, you would have the right to consent to emergency medical needs, make decisions about school, assisting with admissions processes (e.g., pre-school selection, private school applications, and college admissions).
Assistance for Kinship Legal Guardianship Program Participants
After being approved as a guardian under the Kinship Legal Guardianship program in New Jersey, you may qualify for assistance. The Kinship Care Subsidy program provides financial aid to kinship caregivers raising children who are not their own. The program offers a monthly subsidy to help with the costs of caring for the child and access to further benefits such as Medicaid and food assistance programs (NJ SNAP).
Other Situations where KLG is an Option
Events that may lead to Kinship Legal Guardianship have already been discussed, such as addiction or a parent requiring treatment for mental illness. However, many unique circumstances may require another qualifying adult (aside from the child’s parents) to care for a child temporarily or, in other instances, for more extended durations.
Some further examples of KLG cases may manifest when a child’s parents have unfortunately passed away, and the child has no other relatives who are able or willing to care for them. In addition, KLG cases may include a child who has suffered abuse or neglect and transferred into the state’s care.
Contact our Little Falls Kinship Legal Guardianship Lawyers for Assistance with the Process
Our skilled family lawyers assist potential guardians in New Jersey with kinship legal guardianships by guiding them through the legal process and offering informed and confident representation during court proceedings. In addition, a skilled lawyer at The Montanari Law Group can ensure that you as a potential guardian meet the eligibility criteria and fulfills all requirements correctly and on time.
By enlisting an attorney on our family law team, you can count on trusted custody, adoption, and parenting time professional who is able to help you understand your rights and responsibilities and provide guidance on the best care for the child. When it comes to protecting the welfare and well-being of a child, particularly those facing challenging times, it’s crucial to use every tool and resource available to ensure the child is placed under the care of a loving and responsible guardian in a safe and supportive environment. We prioritize the child’s best interests and those of our clients as we work tirelessly to achieve their goals in Passaic County towns such as Clifton, Wayne, Woodland Park, Little Falls, Hawthorne, New Milford and other Northern New Jersey areas.
If you are considering or beginning the journey of becoming a kinship legal guardian, contact an experienced Family Law Attorney at our Little Falls office. We offer free consultations, and an attorney is always ready to walk you through the process ahead. Call Call (973) 233-4396 or access our online form for a no-cost consultation with a lawyer at our office today.