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How To Select A Guardian For Your Children

How To Select A Guardian For Your Children

Who Raises Minor Children Upon the Death of One or Both Parents?

Most parents of young children think about worst-case scenarios and contingency planning and wonder who would be best to raise their child or children in the event that they cannot. No one likes to undertake this thought process or decision-making. However, prudent planning can make difficult or tragic times far more bearable and manageable if family and close friends can take comfort in knowing that the care of surviving children has been addressed in advance.

Designation of a Guardian in a Will Provides for Minor Children's Care

One of the ways to accomplish the aim of providing for the ongoing care of minor children after both parents (or in some instances, one parent) die is by making a designation of and arrangement for a guardian in a will. In most instances, if one parent dies, the other parent will automatically receive custody of minor children unless there is a history of severe drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, unfitness, abandonment, or sexual abuse. Any alternative preference of the deceased parent or that parent's surviving family is probably not going to be sufficient to negate an award of custody to the surviving parent, absent a serious mitigating factor such as those listed above.

The best interests of the child will govern a judge's decision-making for parenting and guardianship decisions. So, if there are particular circumstances or factors you feel a judge should have for consideration in making such weighty decisions, it is prudent to prepare a letter or document to address those concerns.

How to Name a Personal Guardian and Alternative Guardian

A parent should name one personal guardian for each minor child. The guardian need not be different for each child, as often it is in the best interests of siblings to remain together if the guardian is able to undertake the responsibilities associated with raising multiple children. A parent should also name an alternate guardian in the instance that their first preference for a guardian is unable to serve as a guardian for some reason.

It's Best to Name One Guardian Unless the Guardians Are a Couple

It is usually prudent not to name more than one primary guardian for a child because it complicates decision-making for the guardians and opens the door to more challenges and potential disagreements. An exception to this general rule of thumb occurs in the instance of a stable, married, or other long-term couple whom a parent desires to name as guardians for their minor child. By naming both parties in the couple, the parent is able to create a co-parenting guardianship arrangement for the child. Naming both parties of the couple also permits both parties to have the legal ability to make decisions for the child.