There are multiple ways in which a person can be appointed as the legal guardian of a child in New Mexico. The Children’s Code governs appointment of guardians for children who have been abused and neglected or have been determined delinquent or unsupervised.
Requirements for Guardianship Set forth in New Mexico Children’s Code
Before a person can be appointed as a guardian under the Children’s Code, the child must be in the legal custody of the State and the State must consent to appointment of the guardian. Thus, attaining guardianship through the Children’s Code is only possible in select situations.
A person seeking guardianship over a child who is not in the State’s custody may file a petition under the Kinship-Guardianship Act, which allows a person to be appointed as the guardian of a child when that child has lived in that person’s home, without the child’s parent, for a period of ninety days immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
Need Not be a Relative to be Appointed Guardian
Under both the Children’s Code and the Kinship-Guardianship Act, the person seeking appointment as guardian does not necessarily have to be a relative of the child, but they will have to show a relationship with the child and that their appointment is in the child’s best interest.
Once a person is appointed as guardian, the rights and responsibilities of the child’s parents are transferred to the guardian. Under the Kinship-Guardianship Act, a guardian may also ask the court to order the child’s parent to pay child support to the guardian.
Guardianship May be Contested or Unconstested
Appointment of a guardian can be a fairly simple process when both parents consent to the appointment of a guardian for their child. However, when a guardianship is contested by one or both parents, or the State is heavily involved in a child’s case, guardianship cases can get very complicated.
Further, there are additional rules that apply when the child is the member of an Indian tribe or pueblo, or when the child has a disability.
If any of these issues exist in a potential guardianship case, it is a good idea to consult an attorney in order to identify and evaluate all of the applicable bodies of law.