At 18 all individuals, including those with developmental disabilities, reach the legal age of majority.  This means that parents can no longer make decisions legally on behalf of an adult child, regardless of the nature of the individual's disability and regardless of whether or not the individual still lives with the family. 

Some families decide to explore guardianship as an option for their family member. A guardian is defined as "a person or agency appointed by a court to act on behalf of an individual".  Guardianship can be general or limited to certain types of decisions, such as those related to residential, educational, medical, legal, vocational, or financial issues.

In all cases, guardianship should be viewed as a solution of last resort, because it removes an individual’s fundamental right of self-determination.  Once a guardian or co-guardians have been appointed by the Superior Court, only the court can modify or change the guardianship order.  There are alternatives to guardianship that may be appropriate for your family member, such as a revocable power of attorney (POA).

Establishing guardianship is a legal process, and some families turn to the Bureau of Guardianship Services at the Department of Human Services for help with the process. Guardianship, however, can be established without the Bureau’s involvement. 

Although it is possible to obtain guardianship without an attorney, some families use an attorney. You can learn more about guardianship on the State of NJ Judiciary's Guardianship Overview webpage and their Adult Guardianship in New Jersey self-help webpage. 

These documents have been prepared by the Department of Human Services’ Bureau of Guardianship Services (BGS). 

If you have questions, please contact BGS at 609-631-2213. 

If your family member has been determined to need a guardian, working through BGS is only one of several options you have for pursuing guardianship.  Many families elect to pursue guardianship privately, either through an attorney or pro se (without an attorney) because these options tend to move faster than the BGS process.

BGS is only able to process guardianship of the person. If your family member has property such as a trust or other large assets, you need to pursue guardianship of person and property through a private attorney. This must be done at your expense or that of the estate.

If you or someone you care for is experiencing an emergency that requires immediate medical or police assistance, please call 911.

The Division is committed to protecting the health and safety of individuals and to mitigating urgent situations that may occur.  The Division has a process for any person to report suspected abuse of an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability.  Moreover, Department and provider staff, including volunteers, are required to report allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation. 

The Department encourages individuals with special needs to sign up at NJ Register Ready, which is NJ’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters.    The information collected is kept confidential and secure and is only used for emergency response and planning.  Additional information has been compiled by the NJ Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

A reminder from OEM:  The first line of defense against the effects of a disaster is personal preparedness.  During an emergency, the government and other agencies may not be able to meet your needs.  It is important for all citizens to make their own emergency plans and prepare for their own care and safety in an emergency.  Registering on this website is not a guarantee that emergency officials will be able to assist you in an emergency.