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Guardianship/Termination of Parental Rights

Guardianship/Termination of Parental Rights (FG Docket)

Guardianship involves the termination of parental rights of the parent or guardian of the child or children. The filing of a Termination of Parental Rights Complaint is often the end result of a proceeding for abuse or neglect. Federal and state legislation require that DYFS file a termination of parental rights complaint when a child has been in placement for 15 of the last 22 months, unless an exception applies. The complaint is filed with the Family Court in the Children In Court Services Office, stamped, docketed and scheduled for an initial hearing on the same day as the active abuse and neglect case.

Parental rights must be terminated before a child can be placed for adoption. A final hearing or trial is scheduled to determine whether parental rights should be terminated. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge determines whether parental rights are terminated. An FG case can also be concluded in one of the following ways: Voluntary Surrender, Child Placement Review (CPR), Child Welfare Mediation, Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG).


Contact Information

Atlantic County Civil Court Building
1201 Bacharach Boulevard
Atlantic City, NJ 08401
Contact Person: Valerie Lathan
Phone #: (609) 594-3509
Fax#: (609) 343-2290

Cape May County Courthouse
9 North Main Street
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Contact Person: Bernadette Myers
(609) 463-6642

Voluntary Surrender: A parent voluntarily surrenders his or her parental rights.

Identified Surrender: A voluntary surrender where a specific person is identified as the prospective adoptive parent. If the adoption by this person cannot take place for any reason the surrender is immediately vacated.

Surrender or Termination of One Parent: A surrender of custody or termination of parental rights of one parent shall not affect the rights of the other parent. One parent may not act as the agent or representative of the other parent.

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Child Placement Review (CPR)

The Child Placement Review Act [N.J.S.A. 30:4C-50 et seq.] is a legislative mandate which provides for an external review of cases by a trained citizen volunteer board when children have been placed outside the home by the Division of Youth and Family Services.

To learn more about the New Jersey State Child Placement Advisory Council, click here.

To volunteer to be on a Child Placement Review board, click here.

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Child Welfare Mediation

A referral to Child Welfare Mediation can be made by the judge at any time after the Fact Finding Hearing during the child abuse and neglect process by the judge. If an attorney or a party to the case believes that mediation may benefit the case, he or she may make that request to the judge.

To learn more about Child Welfare Mediation, click here.

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Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG)

The Kinship Legal Guardianship law became effective January 2002. This law creates a new means of establishing a permanent home for children who cannot reside with their parents due to the long-term incapacity or inability of the parents. It resolves many issues that may arise for those children who are in the long-term care of family or friends. It assists families by legally recognizing this caregiver relationship providing certain legal rights to caregivers with respect to raising the child to adulthood that include but, are not limited to, educational and medical decisions.

Some Facts about KLG:

    • While the KLG arrangement is intended to be a permanent placement until the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age, it does not terminate the parental rights and obligations of the natural parents.
    • Individuals who have provided care and support for a child (not their own) in their home for at least twelve (12) consecutive months and, who are eighteen (18) years of age or older, may petition for kinship legal guardianship status.
    • The court may provide for an order permitting parenting time/visitation with the child for a birth parent.
    • An award of Kinship Legal Guardianship does not relieve a parent of the responsibility to provide for the support of a child if so ordered by the court.
    • An award of Kinship Legal Guardianship does not affect the rights of inheritance and eligibility for benefits or insurance for the child.

Kinship Legal Guardians serve as parental figures in many important ways including:

    • Decisions concerning the child’s care and well being
    • Consenting to routine and emergency medical and mental health needs
    • Arranging and consenting to educational plans for the child
    • Applying for financial assistance and social services for which the child is eligible
    • Applying for motor vehicle operator license
    • Applying for admission to college
    • Responsibility for activities necessary to ensure the child’s safety, permanency and well being
    • The court may also order the guardian to assume other responsibilities as appropriate.

A petition/complaint for Kinship Legal Guardianship can be filed through the Kinship Navigator Program, established by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, or if there is current involvement, through the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). The Kinship Navigator Program can be contacted by calling toll-free 1-877-816-3211 or by writing to Kinship Navigator Program, PO Box 716, Trenton, NJ 08625-0716.

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Other Important Information

Legal Representation:

Parents or guardians of a child who are named as defendant's are entitled to legal representation throughout the child abuse and neglect and termination of parental rights process. An attorney may be appointed for a parent or guardian who can not afford one through the Office of the Parent Representation. A person can apply for a Public Defender by completing a 5A form which can be obtained from the Children in Court Team or at their first court appearance. Application forms are also available in the Children In Court Services Office. All 5A application forms are screened for eligibility by the Children In Court Services Office and sent to the Office of the Parent Representation.

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Court Appointed Special Advocates:

CASA is an independent, court-authorized, nonprofit organization which works with professionally trained and supervised volunteers to promote the welfare of children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect or abandonment.

CASA serves as a child's "voice in the court process," and works to ensure that needed services and assistance are made available while helping to move the child toward a safe and permanent home.

Click here to visit the Atlantic/Cape May CASA website.


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