When a person in New Jersey reaches age 18, they will be considered to have reached the age of majority. This is true even if the person has a developmental disability. Once they are 18, their parents are no longer allowed to make decisions for them, even if the person is disabled or still resides with their parents. However, sometimes a person does not have the capability to make their own life choices. When this happens, parents might want to consider appointing a legal guardian for their child.
However, when deciding if they should appoint a guardian for their child, there are some things they should know. First of all, parents are still allowed to play a role in the child’s education unless the child expressly states that they don’t want their parent to do so.
In addition, parents can also play a role with regard to their child’s medical care. Depending on the situation, they may be considered next-of-kin, allowing them to give consent to treatment if it is an emergency. Also, every application for guardianship must contain an up-to-date assessment from a state licensed mental health professional or physician.
A guardian doesn’t necessarily need to be the child’s parents. It could be another relative, an interested person or even a state agency. Also, a co-guardian can be appointed. When there is a guardian and a co-guardian, they are both able to make decisions for the child. However, they must cooperate and make these decisions together. Keep in mind that while the Bureau of Guardianship Services can serve as a guardian, it cannot serve as a co-guardian.
Also, when the Superior Court appoints someone to have guardianship or co-guardianship over the child, then such an appointment can only be modified by the court. Therefore, parents should think carefully about whether they, another person or agency should be a guardian.
Guardianship in New Jersey should be viewed as a last resort. However, sometimes it is necessary. Those in New Jersey who are considering guardianship should make sure they have a good understanding of what that means legally before proceeding.