What Baby Yoda Can Teach Us About Kinship/Guardianship In New Mexico 

Baby Yoda frowning.

If you’re not dead, in a coma, or locked in a bunker, you know about baby Yoda. The break out star of Disney’s new Star Wars show, “The Mandalorian” has captured our hearts and taken over our memes. In case you don’t have a Disney plus subscription and you haven’t seen the show (spoiler alert), the Mandalorian follows a bounty hunter around the galaxy as he hunts wanted men (and Aliens) down so he can complete his blaster proof Beskar armor set. However, at the end of episode one, “Mando” finds out that his next bounty is the sleeping bundle of cuteness affectionately known as baby Yoda and Mando’s life (and the internet) was changed forever. The show sees Mando and baby Yoda jet set to different exotic planets every week as he tries to protect his new baby from all the other bounty hunters and find a home for him. While the resulting spectacle is great entertainment and internet gold, it’s also a very earthy tale of someone seeing a child in need and doing something about it. Mando isn’t baby Yoda’s biological father (the large green ears and diet of frogs seem to confirm this) but he takes on that responsibility because baby Yoda has no one else and like all children he needs help, love, and care. Many of us here on earth have found ourselves in a similar situation with our grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friend’s or ex-partners children. Let’s explore how Mando should handle his guardianship of baby Yoda should the pair find themselves in the Land of Enchantment. 

 

We don’t know much about the origins of baby Yoda five episodes into the series, but we do know mom and dad are nowhere to be seen and he has been left in the care of the Mandalorian for an extended period of time. In fact, Mando has started to care for the child as his own and has effectively adopted him. But, given that the parents are MIA and Mando is obviously not a blood relative (or even the same species), can he make it official?  If the pair find themselves in New Mexico, he can. In New Mexico, the Kinship Guardianship Act is meant to address situations in which a parent has left a child with another person for more than ninety (90) days without “appropriate care, guidance or supervision.” Though there are numerous requirements under the NM Kinship/guardianship Act, you do not have to be a blood relative in order to file a Kinship Guardianship petition. However, if you are not a relative or a member of the child‘s tribe, you will have to demonstrate that you have a significant bond with the child. Baby Yoda whipping out his force powers to save Mando and adorably following him everywhere seems to suggest these two have a “significant bond”. The grounds for guardianship, the bonds with the child, the bests interests of the child and other considerations must be set forth clearly in Mando’s Petition for Guardianship.

If Mando is appointed as the legal guardian of baby Yoda, the parent‘s rights are temporarily suspended and transferred to him. This means that Mando is responsible for caring for the child as if he were his own, which not only means feeding and clothing the him, but making decisions about things like medical care and education for him as well. So far, despite occasionally leaving the child unattended to take bounty hunting jobs, Mando is doing just that.

The New Mexico Courts will only appoint a Kinship Guardian if that appointment is in the best interest of the child. If both of the child‘s parents agree to appointment of a legal guardian, then they can sign a Consent of Appointment of Guardian and they can also waive the requirement that a child live with you for at least ninety days before you can file a petition for kinship guardianship. However, if one or both of the child‘s parents dispute the guardianship, the Court must appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child‘s interest. Mando must prove that the custodial parents are unable to provide the support necessary for the child and that he is fit to take on the responsibilities of raising the child. In this case we can assume baby Yoda has been with Mando for more than 90 days, so Mando is in the clear for filing even though baby Yoda’s parents (if they are alive) have not consented.

Once guardianship has been appointed, the legal guardian has full physical custody and financial responsibility for the care of the child. The financial burdens associated with custody of a child can be significant for a guardian. As we can see, Mando does struggle to earn enough credits to buy baby Yoda bone broth and fix his ship whenever its stripped for parts by jawas.  Once he is appointed guardian, Mando can petition and the court will generally award child support from one or both parents for the care of their children while the guardianship is in effect (assuming we can track down baby Yoda’s parents). This might allow Mando to put bounty hunting on the back burner so he can focus on parenting. 

Although Mando will have to prove his bond with baby Yoda and go through a sometimes lengthy process, if he finds the right legal help Mando should be able to take over legal guardianship of the child and make this practical adoption official. This will not only allow Mando to make medical and educational decisions for the child, but it can also help prevent baby Yoda’s parents from coming back into the picture and taking him away. While guardianship won’t prevent this outright, it will give Mando a legal leg to stand on in that event. Keep in mind that the court takes parental rights very seriously so Mando will have to prove they are unfit or unable to care for baby Yoda.  Mando will also be able to claim baby Yoda has a dependent which will keep more credits in his pocket.

Should you file for guardianship of the baby Yoda in your life?  If you believe that a child in your family is being mistreated, or is otherwise not receiving the necessary care from their parent(s), contact Genus Law today to discuss your options. The decision to seek kinship care is a very important, and oftentimes stressful, decision to make, but is extremely important when the safety of a child is at stake.

If you need the support of a family lawyer in Albuquerque in order to begin the process of requesting kinship guardianship, contact Genus Law experienced guardianship and adoption attorneys today. During our initial consultation, we will be able to layout the details of your situation and develop a greater understanding of how we will approach this sensitive legal procedure. The child’s safety is of the utmost importance to us, and we will identify any immediate decisions necessary in order to get the child protected from harm or abuse immediately while we are working through the request of guardianship. If you believe that the child is in imminent harm, contact the Albuquerque Police Department immediately.

May the force be with you and your younglings.

Anthony Spratley
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Experienced Divorce, Child Custody, and Child Support Lawyer Serving Albuquerque and Beyond
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