Guardianship Of Minor Children
Jan. 25, 2023
Judges in New Jersey consider a variety of factors when determining guardianship of a minor child. These factors include: the relationship between the proposed guardian and the child, the financial stability of the proposed guardian, the wishes of the child and the parents, the mental and physical health of the proposed guardian, and the best interests of the child. Additionally, the court will also consider the child's age, the length of time the child has been in out-of-home placement, and the length of time the child has lived with the proposed guardian, prior to and after the granting of guardianship.
When both parents die with minor children in New Jersey, the court will consider family members first and then third parties as potential guardians. Grandparents will be given priority consideration, followed by aunts, uncles, and other close relatives. If there are no family members or other suitable guardians, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to investigate the family situation and advise the court on the surviving parent's overall fitness and if there are any red flags that may compromise their ability to parent. The GAL may also meet with the child to learn their wishes. Ultimately, the court will make the decision based on what is in the best interests of the child.
The procedure for applying for guardianship of a minor child in New Jersey involves filing a petition with the court. The petitioner must provide proof of their relationship to the child, and must provide evidence that guardianship is in the best interests of the child. The court will then assess the petitioner to determine if they are suitable to take on the role of guardian. In some cases, an assessment from a psychologist, psychiatrist or medical doctor licensed in the State of New Jersey may be required. The court will also consider the state's prioritized list of persons who are entitled to receive letters of guardianship for minors. If approved, the court will issue an order granting guardianship of the minor child.
By declaring guardianship in a will, parents get to decide who takes responsibility for the children, instead of the court. Your state might have separate documents where parents can designate a guardian. Check with an estate attorney to see if these documents would be beneficial for your situation. It's also smart to revisit your choice of guardian every five or 10 years when you have a young child (annually if your child has special needs), but make sure you have a heart-to-heart with the chosen guardian before you make this decision and include a named guardian in your will.