Choosing a legal guardian for your children
March 26, 2021
Of all the things that are important in your life, the safety and protection of your family – particularly your children – is likely right at the top of the list. Ensuring they receive the same level of care once you’re no longer around should be a top priority, and choosing a suitable guardian plays a crucial role in that happening. Here’s everything you need to know about why your children may need a legal guardian and how you go about choosing one.
What happens if I haven’t chosen a legal guardian?
If the worst were to happen and you passed away before your children reached the age of 18, then your chosen guardian would become responsible for them – but what if you haven’t chosen a guardian? If you haven’t named anyone as a guardian, you are effectively allowing social services and the courts to decide who gets to look after your children, as well as determining where they will live.
Ultimately, the courts will want to be satisfied that the guardian you have chosen is suitable, with the judge deciding what’s in the best interests of the children. But naming people you consider to be suitable is much better than leaving it to chance, especially if you choose close friends rather than family members – relatives might step in when you wouldn’t want them to. It’s your chance to nominate someone you do want rather than relatives you wouldn’t want.
What should I consider when choosing a legal guardian?
You may be in the fortunate position that you have multiple people you would trust to continue providing your children with a caring and loving upbringing. While this is a crucially important aspect in choosing the right legal guardian, there’s more to consider than the personal relationship you and your children have with them.
A number of logistical factors come into play when choosing a suitable legal guardian. For example, have you considered where they live? Uprooting children and making them change schools can be very disruptive, particularly during what would already be an extremely difficult time (but this might still be best if the children would be happiest with the guardian you have chosen). Also, have you thought about the age of your guardian? While you may be confident the grandparents would continue providing a loving upbringing, they may not make the best legal guardians if they’re reaching an age where they could struggle with the physical demands of caring for a child.
If you have considered all these possible factors, then you should have a discussion with your ideal guardian, ensuring they’re fully aware of their responsibilities and commitments should they ever become necessary.
What impact does being unmarried have on choosing a legal guardian?
It’s important to be aware that if you have a child outside of marriage, the father does not automatically have parental responsibility. The best way to ensure this does happen is by naming the father alongside the mother on the child’s birth certificate, but it can also be allowed if the father has entered into a parental responsibility agreement. This is significant as only parents with this responsibility can assign a legal guardian, and legal guardianship would only take effect if there’s no one with parental responsibility still alive.
If you are divorced or separated, it’s important to discuss and agree on a legal guardian, ideally including a back-up in case the first is unwilling or unable to fulfill the role. Again, if you can’t reach an agreement, the courts will decide what’s best for the child, so choosing a legal guardian both parents are happy with is highly recommended.
How do I appoint a legal guardian?
While most people initially only consider what will happen to their financial assets when they die, choosing a legal guardian is also a crucially important aspect of writing a will. Appointing a legal guardian should be done in your will as it confirms your settled intention as to who should be the guardian – an unwritten agreement isn’t enough.
If this has prompted you to provide further security for your children by appointing a legal guardian, you can get the ball rolling by learning more about our will writing service here. Also, be sure to follow our social media for all our latest updates. Find us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
The information contained in this article is intended for general guidance only. It provides useful information but it is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice as the articles do not take into account specific circumstances. So do please Contact US for legal advice on the issues raised.