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Guardianship of Disabled Adult Children in New Jersey

New Jersey Guardianship Attorney

New Jersey Adult Child Guardianship Lawyer

Your child is considered an adult in the eyes of the law once he or she turns 18, even if a developmental disability, diminished capacity, or mental illness prohibits her or him from making decisions about finances, health care, education, and other important matters.

To retain the authority to make these decisions for your child, you’ll need to request that a court grant you legal guardianship. That’s where a guardianship lawyer from the Susan Clark Law Group LLC can assist you in applying for guardianship in NJ.

Our experienced New Jersey special needs law firm can prepare your petition for applying for guardianship in NJ and represent you at in court to prove that your adult child can’t manage his or her own affairs and needs your guidance.

Contact us now for a free consultation to find out more about how we can help you with a guardianship and other legal matters related to a child with special needs.

What Is Guardianship?

A guardian is legally defined as “a person or agency appointed by a court to act on behalf of an individual.” Guardianship, or being named as someone’s guardian, frequently crops up in terms of caring for elderly parents and other loved ones who need a responsible party to make decisions about their health, housing, finances, welfare, and safety.

Parents of adult children with disabilities also can face this issue.

By law, a guardian is required to involve the person in their care to the extent that his or her abilities permit.

Guardianship is a legal process and removes a person’s “fundamental right of self-determination,” according to the New Jersey Department of Human Services. That’s why it’s considered a solution of last resort.

An adult son or daughter who still lives at home with you and has no serious chronic medical issues may not need an immediate guardianship. But an adult child who needs an advocate to represent his or her needs might.

In New Jersey, the Department of Human Services Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) is required to evaluate anyone who receives state services as to their need for a guardian, either when they enter the service system or before their 18th birthday. The agency decides whether a person needs a guardian based on a clinical assessment of that person’s capacity for independent living, ability to make choices and decisions, and understanding of the guardianship process.

But even if your child does not receive DDD services, you can petition for yourself or another trusted representative (or several) to act as your child’s guardian or co-guardians. The Supreme Court of New Jersey decides on this petition based solely on a person’s decision-making capacity and understanding of the process.

Who Can Serve as a Guardian in New Jersey?

A guardian can be a relative, another interested and responsible person your family nominates, or an agency such as the Bureau of Guardianship Services for family members unwilling or unable to serve as a guardian.

Your child also can have co-guardians: more than one person appointed as a guardian. Each has equal decision-making ability and must be involved together in all consents and decisions.

Types of Guardianship in New Jersey

Guardianship is not an all-encompassing responsibility. There are two types of guardianship: guardianship of a person and guardianship of property. The Bureau of Guardianship Services assists families only with guardianship of a person. If your adult son or daughter has assets in his or her name, you would need to consult with a lawyer.

In addition, guardianship of a person has two distinctions:

  • General guardianship – Sometimes referred to as “plenary guardianship,” this is appropriate for people who have been found incapable of expressing or making any decisions on their behalf.
  • Limited guardianship – This is appropriate for people who are capable of expressing or making some decisions. The court specifies limited guardianship in one or more of six areas of decisions: medical, residential, educational, legal, vocational, and financial. You or another family member can petition to be a limited guardian over day-to-day health and financial issues, leaving an adult child with mild disabilities free to vote, marry, make a will, and perform other adult responsibilities.

What Is the Process for Applying for Guardianship?

The Superior Court of New Jersey appoints a guardian or co-guardians in response to a guardianship petition. If your adult child receives DDD services, that agency can facilitate the request for guardianship of a person at no charge for legal fees. There is a waiting list involved, however.

If your adult child does not receive services from the DDD, you can pursue a guardianship “pro se,” meaning “without a petitioning attorney.” The proposed guardian — whether you or another person you trust — would represent himself or herself in court. Click here for more information on applying for guardianship in NJ. However, your adult child also would be required to have a court-appointed attorney during this process.

Another option would be to hire a guardianship attorney, such as a lawyer at the Susan Clark Law Group LLC, to represent your family and assist you in completing this process.

Whether you handle the petition yourself or with a guardianship lawyer, the process of applying for guardianship in New Jersey requires an up-to-date assessment from a medical doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist licensed in this state. The court requires this assessment to verify the need for a guardian and whether general guardianship or limited guardianship is appropriate.

What You Need to Know About Guardianship

As you weigh whether guardianship is right for your family, here are some points to consider:

  • Guardianship is not permanent. If your adult son or daughter receives services through the DDD, the agency annually will review the individual’s continuing need for guardianship.
  • If a guardian dies, a successor is not automatic, even if the guardian’s will specifically names someone. The court must process the request for a successor.
  • Only the court can change who has been appointed guardian or co-guardians.
  • Once you’ve been named a guardian, you can request to add co-guardians to the guardianship, but again, this requires returning to court.
  • Even if you are not a guardian, you can still attend school Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings if your child would like you to be present. A parent can be involved in educational planning until the student says otherwise.
  • Parents of adult children also can remain involved in medical issues without a guardianship and might be asked as next-of-kin for consent in a medical emergency.
  • An alternative to guardianship is having someone appointed a power of attorney (POA). This is significantly less costly than guardianship and involves an individual with a disability having a basic understanding that he or she is appointing someone to make decisions on his or her behalf. A POA can be revoked or changed at any time and can cover a person, property, or both.

How Can a New Jersey Guardianship Lawyer Help?

If you’re unsure about what form of guardianship is best for your family, or if you have additional questions about petitioning for guardianship versus a power of attorney, the Susan Clark Law Group LLC is here to serve you.

We are proud to have represented families with disabilities throughout our more than 100 years of combined litigation expertise. Because we’re also parents of children with disabilities, we can relate to the particular concerns and challenges many of these families experience.

Please call us today to discuss your family’s situation and address your questions during a free consultation. We’re glad to empower you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your family and your child’s future.

 

Guardianship for Disabled Adult Children FAQs

Guardianship of Adult Children With Special Needs FAQs

Who decides guardianship?

The Superior Court of New Jersey appoints a guardian or co-guardians in response to a guardianship petition.

If your adult child receives DDD services, that agency can facilitate the request for guardianship of a person at no charge for legal fees.

Who can be the guardian?

A guardian can be a relative, another interested and responsible person your family nominates, or an agency such as the Bureau of Guardianship Services for family members unwilling or unable to serve as a guardian.

How do I get guardianship of my disabled child?

To retain the authority to make these decisions for your child, you’ll need to request that a court grant you legal guardianship.

How can I apply for guardianship?

Whether you handle the petition yourself or with a guardianship lawyer, all applications for guardianship in New Jersey require an up-to-date assessment from a medical doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist licensed in this state.

The court requires this assessment to verify the need for a guardian and whether general guardianship or limited guardianship is appropriate.

General vs. Limited Guardianship

General: referred to as “plenary guardianship,” this is appropriate for people who have been found incapable of expressing or making any decisions on their behalf.

Limited: people who are capable of expressing or making some decisions. The court specifies limited guardianship in one or more of six areas of decisions: medical, residential, educational, legal, vocational, and financial. 

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