June 01, 2022
How Can I Obtain Guardianship of My Relative in NJ?
Legal guardianship in New Jersey is requested for many different reasons, such as caring for individuals with a disability or elderly relatives. Regardless of how you go about it, the basic process of obtaining guardianship is relatively the same. Every state has specific requirements, and it’s important to know what’s required. So how can guardianship be obtained? Can it be done without an attorney? Is it worth it to hire legal counsel? Decide for yourself by reading the five steps to getting legal guardianship in New Jersey.
Step 1: Understand the Role
First, you should understand the difference between a power of attorney and guardianship. A power of attorney is granted by the person under care when they are of sound mind. In comparison, guardianship is granted when the person in question can no longer make sound decisions and needs the assistance of another individual to make decisions for them.
Step 2: The Process
There are multiple ways to go through the process of gaining guardianship in New Jersey, such as going through the Bureau of Guardian Services or even representing yourself in court. However, these are slower options that can be difficult to manage without legal knowledge. The most efficient way is to complete the process with the assistance of an experienced attorney. A New Jersey attorney is familiar with the legal process required and can guide you through every step of the way.
Step 3: The Declaration
A legal authority must declare the person in question to be mentally unfit to make decisions for themselves. This often requires the person in question to be evaluated by an outside treating professional, usually a physician or psychologist. During this time, the potential guardian is also evaluated based on their relationship with the individual they will be responsible for. This is to prevent someone who is mentally incapacitated from being taken advantage of. Typically, a guardian would be a spouse, an adult child, a parent, a friend, or even a professional guardian (an unrelated person with specialized guardian training).
Step 4: Type of Guardianship
If a guardianship is recommended, your application will be brought to court. The court will decide what type of guardianship is necessary, limited or general. General covers almost all decisions of importance, while limited covers residential, financial, vocational, medical, legal, and educational decisions specifically. You should discuss with an attorney ahead of time whether you are seeking general guardianship in New Jersey or limited guardianship.
Step 5: The Court Process
As with all legal matters, guardianship requires a significant amount of paperwork. An attorney will be able to guide you through the necessary paperwork and even submit it for you. The court will then assign the Department of Public Advocates and an investigator to evaluate both parties and determine if they are in favor or against the proposed guardianship and specific guardian. If the investigator is in favor of the guardianship and the proposed guardian, the court reviews the paperwork and signs off. If the investigator disagrees, then a formal hearing can occur, where the court will hear arguments from both sides to reach a decision.
After reading through the process of obtaining a guardianship in New Jersey, you now have a clear idea of what is required. Becoming a legal guardian in New Jersey requires a lot of work and is a big responsibility to take on. If you need to obtain guardianship of a parent or relative, we can help. Contact the experienced legal team at Heymann & Fletcher, a New Jersey-based law firm specializing in family law and civil litigation.