Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG) is when a child’s legal guardianship belongs to a family friend or a family member other than the child’s parents. It is not the same thing as a legal adoption, as some of the biological parent’s parental rights remain intact. When is KLP an option, and how does it work?
How Does Kinship Legal Guardianship Work in New Jersey?
As with countless other families around the world, many people in New Jersey end up caring for other people’s children for long periods of time under certain circumstances. It happens when the biological parents are incapable of handling the responsibility, especially when they are incapacitated by physical or mental illness, economic hardship, addictions, or incarcerations. The State’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) might place the children through foster care; in other cases, informal arrangements are set up between the parents and caregivers.
It is often in a child’s best interest to turn an unofficial, temporary arrangement into a formal one as it provides more stability and lets caregivers have more independence with decision-making. The caregiver can petition a court for a KLG and if approved, the birth parents will forfeit legal custody but still have some rights. The appointed guardian gets primary responsibility for the decision making, and may become eligible to receive state subsidies to help with the childcare expenses.
Who is Eligible to Become a Kinship Legal Guardian?
New Jersey laws specify that KLG can be an option when children cannot live with their biological parents due to their inability or incapacity to carry out the regular, expected functions of care and support. A child must already be residing with another caregiver (relative, close family friend)who has a positive “kinship relationship” with the family. Another requirement is that the chance of adoption is neither likely nor feasible. Kinship Legal Guardianship is not a substitute for adoption, but is designed for forge a sense of stability and permanency.
In New Jersey, it is possible to apply for a KLG if you:
- Have been caring for a child for 12 months of more because the biological parents are unable to do so.
- Are financially able to carry out this responsibility.
- Are either related to the child or a friend of the family.
It also must be in that child’s best interest to stay in your care. There are no statutory/regulatory minimum age requirements for court-approved KLGs. The biological parents will still be financially responsible (if possible) for the child, and will be permitted to seek visitation. They also retain the right to have the child’s name change or start adoption proceedings. A KLG is a serious responsibility, and New Jersey courts do not grant these without considering every factor with great care.
How Does KLG Differ from Adoption?
Kinship legal guardians and adoptive parents have most of the same general responsibilities as birth parents, including the child’s health care and education decisions, keeping them fed and clothed, offering companionship and guidance, and applying for social services. They also do everyday things and help with important activities, like carpooling, helping with college admissions, and discussing the facts of life.
One of the main differences between adoption and KLG is that adoptions are irreversible as they are designed to be permanent. A KLG is reversible, and only lasts until the child graduates from high school or turns 18 (21 if the child is disabled).
With a KLG, biological parents who can provide clear, convincing evidence to a court of their regained ability to care for their children can reclaim custody as long as it conforms to the child’s best interests. These guardianships are meant to be temporary measures, but there is strict state oversight.
Adoptive parents have the right to transfer custody and legal authority to another caregiver should they become incapacitated or pass away, and rare responsible for setting these parameters up. The child’s rights to receive government benefits or inheritances from the birth parents are also transferred to the adoptive ones. With adoptions, the birth parents do not have the authority to make decisions about contacting or visiting their children. Birth parents have the right to visit their children during KLGs.
How Do Kinship Legal Guardianships Get Set Up?
A caregiver need not be related to the parents or child to apply for a KLG. The first step is to notify the biological parents and any other parties who have legal visitation rights about the desire to set up a KLG. In some cases, the parents or other parties might decide to resume custody and oppose the action.
Those who qualify can receive up to $250 a month for every child under their care, in their home. This is offered through the New Jersey Kinship Subsidy Program, and this agency can also help with Medicaid coverage if the caregiver’s insurance policy is not adequate. The Program also provides assistance with special services for disabled children and counseling.
To learn more about setting up a KLG, you can visit NJ’s Kinship Navigator Program website, which explains the services they offer and has a list of phone numbers to use: For example, if you live in Moorestown, call Center for Family Services at 877-569-0350. Be aware that a KLG is a legal commitment, so you will want to do everything possible to protect your rights and do whatever is in the child (or children’s) best interest when the arrangement is being set up and for the length of the guardianship. An experienced Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DYFS) attorney will be able to provide you with assistance in this respect.
Contact the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker if You Need Trusted Legal Guidance with a Kinship Legal Guardianship
If a KLG is the best option for a child that you care about, protect them and your own interests by working with the caring, skilled Moorestown DYFS lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker. You can complete our online form, or call our Cherry Hill, New Jersey offices at 856-210-9776 to schedule a confidential consultation. We serve families and caregivers throughout Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Voorhees, and South Jersey.