If a New Jersey child’s parents dies or are unfit and the child has an older sibling, that sibling might want custody of the child. In order to get custody, the child must be under 18 and the sibling must be legally emancipated or at least 18. In both cases, a sibling must provide proof of being able to financially care for the child and provide a stable environment. In the latter case, the sibling might also have to prove that the parents are unable to take care of the child or are putting the child in danger.
However, a custody battle may be avoided if the parents agree to allow the sibling to raise the child. It may be worthwhile to talk to the parents and make this suggestion since courts are reluctant to remove a child from biological parents. If the parents do not agree, it will be necessary to file for custody in the jurisdiction where the child lives.
If a child is taken from the parental home and placed in foster care, a sibling might be able to try to get custody. Generally, courts prefer to place children with a family member. A sibling can also ask to be named as the child’s legal guardian in the parents’ will. A sibling who cannot get custody may apply for visitation.
The standard the court uses to make a decision about child custody is the best interests of the child. Therefore, if the court agrees that the child should not live with the biological parents, the sibling may then want to focus on showing the strength of the relationship and involvement in the child’s life. A family law attorney can often assist in developing a strategy for getting custody.