Choosing a Guardian for Your Children… What You Need to Know

choosing a guardianMany parents I first talk to don’t know the first thing about choosing a guardian for their kids.

And frankly, why would you?

We all believe that we are going to live forever and our kids would never need to have a guardian appointed to take care of them.

But this is one of the hardest choices for my clients to make.

Why Is Choosing a Guardian Such a Hard Choice?

As parents, you love your children immensely. More than pretty much anything, and anyone I would guess.

And you would do anything for your kids, right? I know that I would.

That’s why choosing a guardian is such a hard decision. Because if a guardian is named to take care of your children, it means that you will no longer be here to do so yourself.

And you want that decision to be perfect. You want the people who are going to step in for you to love and care for your children just as much as you do.

And making that decision is a hard thing to do. But it’s also one of the most important decisions you will make as you work through the planning process.

Why is Choosing a Guardian So Important?

We know why choosing a guardian is a hard decision…

Why do we need to choose a guardian at all? I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?

Basically, here’s the deal:

If something catastrophic happens to you and your spouse, and you have not appointed a guardian to care for your children, then the court system will make that decision for you.

Whenever the courts are asked to name someone to take care of a child, their primary goal is to consider what is in the “best interest of the child.” And unfortunately, many times the courts get it wrong. What a judge deems to be in the best interests of your child may not always be what you may think or want for your children.

And here are some other situations that frequently arise that could make the process even more difficult for a court:

  • There are certain family members that you do NOT want raising your children.
  • You don’t have any family members who could step forward as a guardian.
  • You are concerned that a contested guardianship proceeding could be expensive (it is) and lead to fights and divisions between members of your family.
  • You have a spouse that is not the biological parent of your children and you want them to raise your kids. They don’t automatically receive custodial rights. If you aren’t sure what this means, it could happen if your first spouse died and you remarried, or if you are in a same-sex marriage and your kids were never adopted by your spouse.
  • Your only living relatives are from out-of-state (very common in North Carolina) making this entire process even harder on the kids and your family.

I hope that these scenarios make it easier for you to see just how difficult it could be for your family and your children if you failed to name guardians to care for your kids. Not to mention, if your children become the subject of a long and drawn out guardianship battle, they could be placed in foster care until a final decision is made. It is not unheard of for these cases to drag out months or even years.

What Should You Do Right Now?

If you haven’t already, you need to start thinking about who you want to serve as the guardian of your children if something were to happen to you. You want to name at least 3-4 different options, including your first choice and then several backups.

Then you need to get these choices down in writing. If you want some assistance with this, feel free to call us at (919) 460-5422 or fill out our contact form and someone from our office will contact you to set up an initial meeting with you.

In the next several days I’ll be updating this post to more include information on the steps you can take to choose the right guardian for your kids.