What To Consider When Picking Guardians For Your Children
Although it’s a decision put off by most Canadians, prioritizing picking a legal guardian for your child can help prevent otherwise frustrating and devastating judicial circumstances down the road.
In the unfortunate event that you’re no longer able to care for your child, and don’t have a legal guardian appointed to him or her, the decision of who cares for your child is left in the hands of the provincial court. In many cases, the guardian who is given child custody is not who you’d personally choose.
By picking a suitable guardian for your child and having a lawyer include this information in your will, you can avoid the emotionally taxing chaos that can accompany the nature of this situation altogether.
What is a Legal Guardian?
A legal guardian is an adult who is legally responsible to take care of your child until he or she turns 18. Your chosen legal guardian may be one person or a couple, a family member or a friend. It’s possible that your appointed legal guardian choice may change over the years if you feel that certain factors such as age or health have impaired their ability to efficiently care for your child.
Knowing how to pick a guardian for your child can seem like a daunting task, and no one will be able to raise your kids as well as you. To make matters worse, your child will be dealing with the loss of a parent. This makes deciding her or his guardian that much more important. Once you understand the most important factors to consider when appointing a legal guardian, you will gain more clarity and narrow down your decision as to who would be the best suited person next to you.
Here are the top 10 factors to consider in picking a guardian for your child.
Top 10 Factors to Consider in Picking A Guardian For Your Child
Experience With Children
Considering whether your guardian is already a parent may impact your decision. However, one’s ability to become a suitable guardian doesn’t necessarily depend on whether they’ve raised their own children.
A suitable guardian may not have children of their own, but perhaps they’ve spent time with children in the past, in a family or work setting. Has your guardian demonstrated a natural sense of being able to connect with, relate to and care for children and/or teenagers? Perhaps the guardian is someone who connects specifically with one of your own children, such as a favourite aunt or cousin.
A stable and positive environment is necessary for a healthy upbringing. In the event that your guardian becomes your child’s primary caregiver, are they able to provide a secure and comfortable home?
If your guardian lives in another province or country that requires your child to be uprooted from their current environment, you may want to consider whether that would be stressful or disruptive to him or her. There are similar stresses to consider. Basic examples include: rural vs urban living, pets a child is afraid of or if living with a smoker is an issue. Most importantly, can your guardian provide an environment that would not only reassure you, but your child that it would be a comfortable home to reside in?
Physical Ability To Parent
Considering your guardian’s age and state of health can help determine whether they’re the appropriate choice to receive custody of your child. This can be a difficult decision that will also depend on the age of your child, or children. For example, the guardians best suited to your child at this time may be their grandparents, but in five years their ability to physically care for young children may be impaired. For this reason, it’s necessary to have a second option for child guardianship, and to update your will accordingly.
Emotional Availability of Guardians
Your guardian’s willingness to take on the responsibility of raising your child as their own, as well as the ability to connect with your child, is of utmost importance. Would they be able to assume the role of a parent despite their current obligations and/or lifestyle?
When picking a guardian for your child, consider whether they’d be receptive and responsive to your wishes for how your child is raised.
Personality Traits Of A Guardian
Is your guardian someone who would be a good role model for your child? Are they someone who would be able to efficiently offer support and empathize with your child through the difficult time of transitioning to a new family and home?
Life And Home Stability
Stability is a key factor in parenting obligations. Stability can refer to a consistent location and environment, but also a stable lifestyle and character.
For example, would your appointed guardian be home and available to your child during after-school hours, or does he/she have a demanding career that requires frequent out of town travel? Is your guardian reliable and able to commit to being a figure of authority?
Trust is the foundation of any relationship, but especially a parent-child relationship. While it’s important to consider whether you can put your full trust in your guardian’s abilities to raise your child, you must also consider if your child would trust your chosen guardian too.
Is your guardian someone your child would feel comfortable turning to in challenging situations? Would your child be able to seek advice from and speak to their guardian about personal issues as they arise? Would they trust their appointed guardian enough to reach out when their health or safety is concerned?
Core Values And Beliefs
Whether it’s religion, spirituality, education or other elements of your parenting style, it’s important to consider if your personal values are in alignment with the person who would assume guardianship of your child.
If not, would they be willing to adopt and demonstrate your most important values for the well being of your child?
Would Your Children Be Split Up?
If you have more than one child, the legal guardian you choose may depend on whether they are able to care for all of your children, or if your children would be required to live in separate residences. In this instance, you must also consider whether you require more than one guardian.
Although a controversial factor to consider in child guardianship, raising a child is not a light expense. Some may argue that life insurance policies can take care of the child, but in the event that there are financial complications, choosing a guardian that has the financial means to assume responsibility for your child can offer an extra sense of security.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices and determined who would be next best to you in caring for you child, having a conversation with that person and understanding their reaction can help make the decision even easier.
How To Legally Pick Your Guardian
You can simply, easily and inexpensively have the guardian of your child legally put in place but having a will properly drafted. Not only will a will have who will care for your child in place, but it will also deal with financial issues. The cost, stress and time to secure a guardianship order, even if not contested, is much more than having a will prepared properly. This is a must have for every parent.
Short Video On Guardianship & Your Will