Kinship guardians help raise children when the biological and/or custodial parents either cannot or are not willing to. Because parents provide such a critical caregiving role for children, New Mexico law recognizes and protects their right to do so. However, not everyone can become one, and the court system imposes certain requirements for kinship guardianship.
That’s why you need the dependable services of Matteucci Family Law. If there’s a child in your family or community who is not being properly cared for by parents, ask us about your legal options.
What Is A Kinship Guardian?
A child’s parents may not be able or even willing to provide their child with adequate care. This may be due to a number of personal problems that the parents are experiencing. Because the courts have an interest in preventing child abuse or neglect, they permit certain individuals to step in and request the right to take care of the child. These individuals are known as kinship guardians.
A kinship guardian is often a relative or close friend of the family, such as a grandparent, stepparent, or godparent. It may also be a member of the child’s tribe or clan. Almost anyone who has a kinship bond with the child can serve as a kinship guardian, as long as they are able to provide the nurturing and protection the child needs.
There is a formal process by which an individual becomes a kinship guardian. Courts have this process in place to ensure that a guardian can truly take care of the child. If you are able to successfully petition the court, you can take guardianship of the child.
It should be noted that, because of certain provisions in the U.S. Constitution, courts generally prefer that a child’s parents raise their children as they see fit. That means that merely disagreeing with how a child is being raised is not enough for someone to step in and assume a guardian role. The government can only intervene if there is a compelling reason to do so.
How Can I Become A Kinship Guardian?
To justify the court taking action, the would-be kinship guardian must prove that the parents are unable or unwilling to provide the safety and support their child needs. Moreover, one of the following must apply:
- The custodial parents have consented in writing to allow the appointment of a kinship guardian
- The custodial parents have had their parental rights terminated or suspended
- The child has lived with the individual petitioning for guardianship for at least three months (90 days)
To show that the custodial parents are unwilling or unable to properly care for the child, the would-be kinship guardian must provide evidence. This could be due to a number of different issues, including:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Mental illness
- Physical abuse or neglect of the child
- Abandonment of the child
- Simply the unwillingness of the parents to raise the child
The Benefits Of A Kinship Guardianship
Once someone is formally recognized by the courts as a kinship guardian, that individual can step into the shoes of the parents. Being a kinship guardian can provide much-needed stability in the child’s life while allowing him or her to remain connected to the family and community. Foster care, on the other hand, would allow strangers to raise the child and possibly cause the child to move from one home to another.
There are also certain legal benefits that attach to being a kinship guardian. While some family members or friends often step in informally to care for a child, the kinship guardian is an officially recognized relationship. It allows the guardian to obtain medical and dental care for the child. The guardian may also be eligible for financial assistance from various state agencies or child support from the parents.
Many guardianships are temporary, but others can be permanent. It depends on how long the circumstances exist which make the custodial parents unable or unwilling to care for the child. If the custodial parents can later demonstrate a willingness and ability to serve as parents again, the court may terminate the kinship guardianship.
What Steps Are Involved In Seeking Kinship Guardianship?
Your first step is to file a petition for guardianship in the district court of the county where the child lives. This step is necessary even if the parents consent.
A court hearing will be necessary to determine whether the would-be kinship guardian meets all necessary qualifications, including being able to care for the child. The court must also consider whether appointing the kinship guardian is in the child’s best interests. If the parents don’t consent to the guardianship, the court will need additional evaluation to determine whether the parents are incapable of caring for the child.
Contact Our New Mexico Kinship Guardianship Attorney
Having a skilled family law attorney increases the likelihood that your petition for kinship guardianship will be approved. Matteucci Family Law will help you file the necessary paperwork, assemble and present the evidence, and conduct the court hearing. We can answer any questions or concerns you have about the process, and we will let you know what your legal rights are if the court approves your petition. Give us a call today to get started.