When parents in New Jersey are not able to take care of their children, on either a short-term, long-term or permanent basis, it often falls to relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins, to step up and care for the child. There are several different legal arrangements through which this can take place, including adoption and kinship legal guardianship. The two may resemble each other in many ways, but according to the NJ Department of Children and Families, there are several significant differences that you should be aware of if you intend to take responsibility for the care of a young relative.
Both adoptive parents and kinship legal guardians have decision-making authority over a child younger than 18 whom the state has placed into their care. The main difference between KLG and adoption is that the latter terminates the rights of the birth parents regarding the child, while the former does not.
Therefore, when a child is in the care of a KLG, birth parents retain visitation rights except in cases where the court deems it inadvisable. Conversely, birth parents have no legal right to visitation of an adopted child, although adoptive parents may choose to maintain contact between the child and his or her birth parents at their own discretion.
Other differences pertain to the legal authority of the guardians and the inheritance rights of the children. Decision-making rights of adoptive parents in regard to their child terminate when the child turns 18, but the decision-making authority of a KLG can end earlier if the court changes the guardianship judgment. If a kinship legal guardian wishes a child in his or her care to inherit the guardian's property after death, he or she must make out a will expressing this wish. However, a child can inherit from adoptive parents even without a will in place.
The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.