In December of 2012, the State of New Jersey adopted the New Jersey Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act. This same Act has been adopted by a majority of U.S. States. The purpose of this Act is to insure uniformity concerning potential Jurisdiction issues which may arise between the U.S. States with regard to guardianship and other protective proceedings initiated in either the State of New Jersey or any other State. Often referred to as a “Granny Snatching Statute”, this Act has certain safeguards which prohibit a family member from quickly removing an elderly relative from this person’s domicile, and thereafter, initiating Guardianship Proceedings or other proceedings within a different State. As mentioned above, the majority of U.S. States have adopted this Act to insure that their respective Courts treat any alleged “Granny Snatching” issues uniformly.
The Statute contains numerous Sections which define when a State may exercise Jurisdiction over a Guardianship or other Protective proceeding. One of the important definitions in the Act the definition for “Home State”. The Act requires that a person reside in a State for at least six (6) months immediately before the filing of a Petition for the appointment of a Guardian or a Protective Order, or if none, a State will have Jurisdiction if the Respondent was physically present including any period of temporary absence for at least six (6) months ending within the six (6) months prior to filing the Petition. Another important definition of the Act is the definition of a “Significant Connection State”. Under the Act this means a State, other than the Home State, in which Respondent has a significant connection other than mere physical presence and in which significant potential evidence concerning the Respondent is available.
Section 9 of the Act is the primary Section which the Courts must review for the purpose of determining whether they have Jurisdiction to Appoint a Guardian or issue a Protective Order.
A State may have Jurisdiction if it is the Respondent’s Home State, as defined above, or if it is a Significant Connection State as defined above, and other conditions are met. If the Respondent does not have a Home State, or the Respondent does have a Home State, however, no Petition for Appointment is pending; a Party may seek to commence protective proceedings if the State in which the Court is hearing the matter is a Significant Connection State.
Another important Section of the Act is Sub-Section 12. This Section provides that if a Court has appointed a Guardian or Issued a Protective Order that it has exclusive and continuing Jurisdiction over the proceeding until such time as it is terminated by the Court or the Order expires by its own terms. This Section is important, as it prevents other Courts from attempting to exercise Jurisdiction once an Order is in place. Provided the Order is issued appropriately and involves the Respondent’s Home State or a Significant Connection State, any action brought in any other State would be barred.
The Act also contains numerous other Sections which delineate how the Courts are to cooperate regarding any Inter-State Jurisdictional issues, and also provide a means for taking Discovery if there is an Inter-State Jurisdictional issue which merits consideration. Finally, the Act has a Section which addresses Emergency Jurisdiction under circumstances which the Court deems are an Emergency even in the absence of a Significant Connection State or Home State, provided the Respondent is physically present in that State’s Court system. This Act also has other Sections which define how the Courts are to interact if more than one action is proceeding in more than one State.
The main purpose of the Act, however, is to insure uniformity and to prevent “Granny Snatching” from taking place. The time periods set forth under the “Home State” definition, as well as the Section which defines a Significant Connection State, allow the Courts to void attempted “Granny Snatching” should an action not be properly filed. It is for these reasons that the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceeding Jurisdiction Act is a positive step forward for the State of New Jersey and other member States.