Protecting the children you care about is all you want to do. Sometimes, that requires taking the important and often challenging step of seeking guardianship of a child who may not be related to you biologically. Once you're a legal guardian, you'll typically have the same rights and responsibilities as a parent in New Mexico.
You may be appointed as a temporary guardian for a specific amount of time. If the legal paperwork doesn't set a timeframe for your guardianship, then you'll remain the child’s guardian until he or she reaches the age of 18, or until your guardianship is terminated in court.
New Mexico Child Guardianship Laws
Whenever possible, New Mexico guardianship issues are decided under the Kinship Guardian Act. This means if parents are unable or unwilling to raise their children, then preference will be given people able and willing to care for them. This preference might extend to relatives or other people who have close relationships with the children.
There's no requirement that you be legally related to the child or children, but you must share a close bond if you seek guardianship. Guidelines of the Kinship Guardianship Act might include:
- The child’s parents consented to your guardianship of their child or children.
- Parental rights were terminated or suspended by the court.
- The child or children have lived with you, without a parent present, for at least 90 days immediately before you file the petition; and the parent is unwilling or unable to provide adequate care, supervision, and maintenance; or if other extraordinary circumstances exist.
However, not all New Mexico guardianship cases are decided according to the Kinship Guardian Act. In some circumstances, guardianship might fall under the Uniform Probate Code or the Children’s Code. This usually requires parental rights to be terminated in court before you become a legal guardian.
How to Get Guardianship in New Mexico
If you're applying for guardianship under the Kinship Guardian Act, you'll first need to file a petition for guardianship with the district court where you and the minors reside. You must file this petition even if their parents agree you should become the child’s guardian. If they do agree to your appointment, it's helpful to present the court with a sworn statement from them. However, you may still be appointed guardian even if the parents don't consent.
Next, a full investigation is conducted to determine if you're a competent guardian and if your guardianship is in the best interests of the kids. This may include an examination of the home you can provide, any criminal history, job stability, and the type of relationship you have with the child or children. Based on the findings, the court then makes a ruling.
Procedures for guardianship filing under the Uniform Probate Code or the Children’s Code are similar: a petition to the court, a competency investigation, and a court ruling.
Depending on the exact circumstances, the court may deny your petition for guardianship, grant temporary guardianship, or award permanent guardianship of the child.
We Can Help
Once you become a guardian, you'll have the rights and responsibilities of a parent. Therefore, it's critical to apply for guardianship pursuant to the right law, with all of the necessary evidence, and with legal representation.
The experienced family law attorney at the Genus Law Group will make sure all paperwork is filed correctly and that you present evidence convincingly supporting a guardianship petition. Contact us today to learn more about legal options and about what you can do to protect the children you love.