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In this post, we explore a topic close to the heart – kinship guardianship. If you are wondering about the ins and outs of taking on the role of guardian for a young relative, you are in the right place.

What’s Kinship Guardianship?

Kinship guardianship is like the superhero version of family support. It’s a legal arrangement where a relative takes on the responsibilities of the legal guardian of a child, typically when the child’s parents are unable to care for them. It is a way of maintaining a child’s familial ties while ensuring the child’s well-being. New Mexico recognizes the value of family connections, and kinship guardianship plays a crucial role in the state’s approach to child welfare. It is an important solution when the biological parents are facing challenges such as substance abuse, incarceration, untreated mental illness, or other issues that make it difficult for them< to provide a stable environment for their child, while keeping the child out of the state’s custody.

Eligibility and How to Get Started

You might be wondering if you are eligible for kinship guardianship. In New Mexico, a relative can petition the court for kinship guardianship if they can prove that it is in the child’s best interest. This involves demonstrating the parents’ inability to care for the child and showcasing that kinship guardianship is a suitable alternative. Generally, the child has to be living with the person seeking guardianship for a period of ninety days, however there are exceptions to this. How does one dive into the kinship guardianship process? Here is a quick rundown:

  • Petition the Court: Start by filing a petition with the court expressing your intention to become the kinship guardian.
  • Background Checks and Home Study: If the guardianship is contested by either or both parents, the court will likely conduct an investigation and to do a home study and ensure that the environment is safe and suitable for the child, through appointing a Guardian ad Litem (an attorney who represents the child).
  • Court Hearing: Similar to other guardianship cases, there will be a court hearing where you can present your case, and the judge will make a decision based on what is best for the child. Consulting with a family law attorney will ensure you meet all the court’s criteria for eligibility, that you are apprised of the legal process and meet all necessary requirements and deadlines.

The Heart of the Matter: Keeping Families Connected

Kinship guardianship is all about preserving family ties and providing stability for a child in need. It is not about replacing parents but stepping in when circumstances make it challenging for them to fulfill their role and legal responsibilities to their children. It is different from adoption in that the guardian(s) or parents can revoke the guardianship if the parent’s situation improves, and they are able to provide a suitable and stable environment for their child.

If you are considering kinship guardianship in New Mexico, remember, you are not alone. You can learn more about guardianship from Terry & deGraauw, P.C. There are resources and programs in place to support you on this journey, and the court is there to ensure that the best interests of the child or children are front and center.

Kelly Squires, Managing Director of Terry & DeGraauw, P.C. January 2024
Written with the assistance of ChatGPT

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