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  • NJ A3219
  • "The Peter Falk Act"; establishes certain requirements concerning access to persons subject to order of guardianship.
In Committee
Crossed OverPassedSignedDead/Failed/Vetoed
2016-2017 Regular Session
This bill, which will be known as "The Peter Falk Act," establishes certain requirements concerning access to a person who is the subject of an order of guardianship, also known as a "ward." Specifically, the bill provides that a guardian may not restrict a ward's right of communication, visitation, or interaction with other persons, including the right to receive visitors, telephone calls, and personal mail, unless specifically authorized by a court order. If a ward is unable to express consent to communication, visitation, or interaction with a given person, the ward's consent may be presumed based on the ward's prior relationship with the person. A guardian may petition the court to restrict any person's access to a ward, including requiring time, manner, or place restrictions; imposing supervised access; or prohibiting communication, visitation, or interaction with the ward. The court may grant the petition upon finding good cause exists to impose restrictions, including, but not be limited to: the existence of a protective order on the ward's behalf against the person seeking access; a finding by a court or other State agency that the person seeking access abused, neglected, or financially exploited the ward; or the ward's express desire to reject communication, visitation, or interaction with the person. Unless the court finds that the person seeking access poses a threat to the ward, supervised communication, visitation, or interaction is to be ordered prior to a denial of communication, visitation, or interaction. In considering the petition, the court will be required to consider whether the ward has expressed a preference for communication, visitation, or interaction with the person. If the ward is unable to communicate, the court may consider the prior relationship history between the ward and the person and any documentation of the ward's preferences. Additionally, if any interested person, including the ward, reasonably believes that a guardian has impermissibly restricted communication, visitation, or interaction with the ward, or that any person has violated a court order restricting communication, visitation, or interaction, the person may petition the court for appropriate relief, including requiring the guardian to grant access to the ward; restricting a person's access to the ward; modifying the guardian's duties; or removing and replacing the guardian. In any case, if the court finds the guardian knowingly isolated the ward, restricted access to the ward, or violated a court order restricting access to the ward, the court will be required to remove and replace the guardian, and will be permitted to order any other appropriate relief. The bill requires that a hearing on a petition filed under the bill be scheduled no later than 60 days after the date of filing; except that, if the ward's health is in significant decline or the ward's death is imminent, the court will be required to schedule an emergency hearing no later than 10 days after the petition is filed. In the case of an emergency petition, the court will be required to issue an order granting supervised access to the ward during the period prior to the hearing. In the case of a non-emergent petition, the court may order the parties to undergo mediation; however, any mediation agreement the parties reach will require court approval to take effect. On any petition filed under the bill, the court will be permitted to award the prevailing party court costs and reasonable attorney's fees, which may not be paid out of the ward's estate. The bill additionally requires guardians to promptly notify a ward's parents, adult children, and any other person designated by the ward to receive notice in the event that: (1) the ward's residence has changed; (2) the ward is staying at a location other than the ward's residence for more than seven consecutive days; (3) the ward is admitted to a medical facility for acute care for a period of three or more days or for emergency care in response to a life-threatening injury or medical condition; or (4) the ward dies. Unless the ward has a protective order in place against the person receiving notice, the guardian is to include appropriate contact information for the ward. Notice of the ward's death is to be made in person or by telephone and is to include details concerning funeral arrangements and the place of burial or other final disposition. A guardian will not be required to provide notice if the guardian has been expressly prohibited from providing notice to the person by the ward or by a court order, or if the person entitled to notice requests, in writing, not to receive notice. The bill would apply to any guardianship order issued before, on, or after its effective date. This bill is similar to laws recently enacted in Texas and Iowa and legislation introduced in Tennessee.
Judiciary, 2nd Reading in the Assembly
Reported out of Assembly Committee, 2nd Reading  (on 1/19/2017)
Date Chamber Action Description
1/19/2017 A Reported out of Assembly Committee, 2nd Reading
1/19/2017 Assembly Judiciary Hearing (10:00 1/19/2017 Committee Room 12, 4th Floor)
2/22/2016 A Introduced, Referred to Assembly Judiciary Committee
Date Motion Yea Nay Other
Detail 1/19/2017 Assembly Judiciary Committee: Reported Favorably 6 0 1