A minor child enduring a parent’s death after divorce is an unfathomable tragedy. Even if the child is still trying to process their painful circumstances, new living arrangements may already present further difficulties.
When a custodial parent dies, New Jersey law often presumes that it is in the child’s best interests to award custody to the surviving parent. However, things may be more complex when existing evidence proves that the living parent is unfit or incapable of providing the child with a safe and secure environment.
Who takes care of the child?
Although state laws advocate for a solid parent-child relationship, family dynamics are not always straightforward. Third parties may claim that the noncustodial parent poses significant risks to the child through abandonment, neglect, abuse or other violent acts.
Thus, the following are potential individuals who can petition for custody after a custodial parent’s untimely passing:
- Immediate family members, such as uncles and aunts
- Immediate family friends, such as godparents
However, there are situations where no one is willing or capable to raise a child. When this happens, the court will review if the foster care system can look after the child’s welfare.
Further, there are instances when stepparents want to formalize their relationship with the child through adoption. Ultimately, the court will consider if this option promotes the child’s well-being.
Why does a parental figure matter?
Having a deceased parent can have a detrimental impact on a young child. Having someone step into the role and assume parental duties is crucial. They can be the support system the child urgently needs and guide them to overcome overwhelming odds. Anyone contemplating to fight for custody must secure legal representation to help them with a custody plan that can protect their rights and the child’s future.