Five considerations when choosing a legal guardian for your child
Written by Cindy-Marie Leicester on October 05, 2015.
Choosing a legal guardian for their child or children should be pretty much at the top of every new parent’s to do list but it tends to be one of those jobs which gets shoved to the bottom as the reality of being entirely responsible for a new, tiny human kicks in.
The decision can be complicated by family politics – you want it to be your brother but your partner prefers her sister and your sister might be upset if she finds out she’s not even in the running – sometimes it’s easier just to sweep the whole thing under the carpet.
But don’t! If you are a parent and you haven’t yet nominated a legal guardian for your offspring, I urge you to do so as soon as you possibly can. None of us expect our lives to be abruptly end just as we are venturing down the exciting road of parenthood but sadly it does happen. Losing a parent, or, worse, two is obviously devastating for a child but the situation is exacerbated if there are question marks over who will look after them. This is inevitable if the parents have failed to nominate a guardian. This omission can lead to long and disruptive legal wrangles, and even children being taken into care.
Entrusting your child’s future welfare to someone else is not a task to be undertaken lightly and nor is accepting the huge responsibility of accepting the status of guardian for whoever you choose. Here are the most important things you need to think about when choosing a legal guardian:
1. Existing responsibilities
If your choice of guardian already has a brood of their own children and/or is struggling either emotionally or financially, they might not be the best choice. Avoid selecting someone who is likely to be unable to cope.
2. Shared values
It sounds obvious but the person you choose will undoubtedly end up shaping the character and future of your child. It makes sense to choose a person who has similar goals and values to you and a comparable outlook on life.
While your parents may seem like an obvious choice as guardian, remember that the duties of doting grandparent are very different from those of full-on parent. Your parents may be youthful now but as they get older will they still be physically and mentally capable of facing the challenges of raising children right through until their grandchildren reach adulthood?
4. Financial stability
Few parents of young children will leave a legacy which will be sufficient to see their children through to adulthood. Whoever you choose as guardian will more than likely be taking on a huge financial commitment and you should select someone who is prepared and able to meet the financial burden.
5. Keeping your children together
It is possible to assign multiple guardians i.e. different individuals for different children. This certainly shares the burden around however there are obvious emotional ramifications for your family who may (or possibly not!) prefer to stay together.
Once you have carefully considered the above points and selected your nominated legal guardian you must of course ask that person if they accept the responsibility. Landing an unsuspecting friend with the task is not fair, and could cause complications if they refuse, so obtaining their approval before putting anything down in writing is vital.
Once your designated guardian has agreed to accept the responsibility, consult a professional who can get make sure the necessary steps are taken to make the decision legally binding. I sincerely hope it is merely a formality which will never come to pass but at least you will have peace of mind that should the unthinkable happen, your children will be well looked after by someone you trust.