It’s not nice to think about someone else raising your child in your place, but life can be unpredictable, and it’s always important to plan ahead and prepare for every eventuality. Choosing a guardian for your child can provide you with peace of mind while also ensuring that your little one is with the right person, just in case the unthinkable occurs.
However, choosing a guardian isn’t a decision to take lightly. There are many different factors to consider, and weighing up multiple aspects and choosing with care is essential. This guide will cover some key criteria to help you pick the right guardian, along with some useful tips to remember.
What Is a Guardian?
A guardian, in the legal sense, is someone who is appointed to look after a child in the case that their parents die. The guardian will have full responsibility for raising and caring for the child until they reach the age of 18, and this is the difference between guardianship and adoption – adoption is permanent. Still, guardians only have a legal duty of care up to a certain age.
Why Appoint a Guardian?
Even though considering someone else looking after your child may not be a pleasant experience, it’s strongly recommended that parents name a legal guardian. This is because if the parents die and a guardian has not been named, it means that judges and courts will be the ones to decide where the child ends up and who gets guardianship.
This can lead to a lot of unnecessary additional trauma for the child or children to go through, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll end up with the person that the parents would have wanted. They may even have to temporarily be placed in foster care while the courts decide on the most appropriate guardian.
Things to Consider When Appointing a Guardian for Your Child
So, how do you choose the right guardian? Well, you’ll need a guardianship attorney to help with the paperwork and make it all official, but before you get to that stage, you’ll need to consider a few different factors. Here are some critical criteria to focus on to make the right choice.
Figure in Finances and Family Factors
Arguably, the family is the most crucial factor to focus on at first. Think about your prospective guardians and consider how well they get on with the rest of your family, like your parents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and so on. It’s often helpful to pick a guardian to allow the children to see and interact with family often so they don’t feel alone or cut off from the people they love.
Of course, finances are also a crucial criterion. You have to consider the financial situation of your prospective guardians, considering their career, how much money they earn, what level of stability they have in their professional life, and how well they’d be able to financially provide for your children.
Location and Living Situation
It’s also a good idea to think about where your guardians live. Obviously, in most cases, the children will move into the guardian’s home in the event of your passing, so it’s worth considering their living situation. Is the property big enough to accommodate the children? Would it be a safe and comfortable place for them to grow up?
And it’s not just the home itself but also the surrounding environment that you must consider. Think about the safety of the local neighborhood, for example, or the standards of local schools. A child’s living environment can significantly impact their academic success and social development, so this is a significant factor.
Religious & Moral Beliefs
You might have certain religious beliefs or moral concepts you hope to teach and share with your children. If so, you may want to ensure that any guardian you choose shares those same beliefs and views of the world and will raise your children with the same principles that you would.
Of course, it may not be possible to find a guardian with the exact same beliefs as you on every subject, but if you can find someone with at least similar views on things, then that’s a good start. For example, a family with a strong Christian background may want to ensure that any guardian they choose is also a Christian.
Take Age and Health into Account
Many people immediately think of their parents as their children’s ideal guardians. Still, you need to think carefully about the age and health status of any guardian you choose, and your own parents may not have the same youthful energy they once had to run around after your child or keep up with their needs and demands.
Similarly, it’s essential to communicate with any prospective guardian with serious health issues, like a chronic illness or disability, so that you can find out whether or not they’d be able to look after your children without jeopardizing their own health.
Elderly Parents Are Not the Ideal Choice
Unfortunately, as explained above, elderly parents rarely make the best choice as legal guardians. Their health could deteriorate as they become older, making it far more difficult for them to meet your child’s needs. This is why it’s usually better to look for someone around your age or younger when designating a guardian.
Close Family Friends Can Be a Great Option
It’s tempting to focus purely on family members when picking a guardian, but you should consider looking beyond the family circle to good friends. Your friends are more likely to be around the same age as you and probably live nearby, too, so there wouldn’t be as much upheaval for your child to move in with them.
Choosing a Guardian for Your Child: Conclusion
Picking a guardian is an essential part of being a responsible parent, and it could save your child from a lot of stress and fear, so it’s worth doing. Consider these factors and consult with an attorney to designate your child’s possible legal guardian and make the right choice.