How To Choose Guardians

I say “Choose a guardian for your children,” and your knee-jerk answer is your parents or a very close friend. How about choosing alternates in case your first choice is unable to take on the role? What attributes do you want in a guardian?

  • A married twosome—Seems like a stable arrangement, but divorce happens. Which person in the couple would raise your child in a split? Does the couple have children? Would your child fit in?
  • Age and health—You want to select your parents as excellent guardians, but would they be able to run after your toddler? To handle the social and emotional demands of a teen? You can designate a guardian for a specific length of time—until your child turns 13, for example, and designate another until your child is 18.
  • Distance—Where your potential guardian lives may mean a move to another city or state, and that may turn your little one’s world upside down.
  • Values—Do you want your child to be raised in a specific religion? You may want someone who lives by similar values and raises your children with core beliefs that line up with yours.
  • Finances and family factors—Does your likely choice of guardian get along with your parents, in-laws and other relatives? Does the individual own a home, have a stable job or work in a field that requires lots of travel? Consider setting up a trust so that the guardian may raise your child with financial stability.

Do you want the guardian to handle your child’s money as well? If your potential guardian isn’t financially responsible, maybe you’ll want to consider someone who’ll be the executor of your will, while another individual raises your child, providing food, clothing and shelter. The legal guardian will make major decisions about health care and the type of education your child should receive.

Maybe you have certain schools you’d like your child to attend and definite ideas about nutrition. Provide detailed instructions about these topics as well as if you want your child to learn ballet or play soccer. Make your wishes known.

Your child’s well-being is your top priority. This is an emotionally challenging undertaking. Think long term. Create a backup plan with three or four different guardians, guaranteeing your children will be under safe care no matter what happens.

You may even have strong opinions on who you don’t want to raise your children—document them. You may have divorced and want to make clear how much influence you want your former spouse to have. And don’t select a person as guardian just to appease someone. Whether a friend or family member, no one should pressure you into naming a guardian. It’s your decision as a parent to ensure your child grows up loved and doesn’t wind up in the foster system, where siblings may be separated.

Thinking of the ideal guardian? Run it by that person for approval and permission before making it final. Consult an attorney to draw up the necessary documents for your legal contingency plan.

Reach out to Roz Carothers and her team at Triplett & Carothers to learn more.