How do I choose a Guardian?

Choosing a guardian for minors is perhaps the most difficult decision a parent has to make because it is nearly impossible to imagine anyone else doing as good a job as you would do raising your children, however, as pointed out earlier, if you do not choose a guardian for your children, a judge who has no personal knowledge of you or your children will decide who will raise them. Don’t allow yourself to become paralyzed trying to find someone who will be as good a parent as you are. That person does not exist. Instead, focus on finding the next best person available.

In choosing a guardian for minor children, it is important that you name someone who shares your ideas and values in rearing children. Ask yourself if you and the person you are considering share similar religious beliefs and attitudes toward parental discipline. Ask yourself if they will give your children the same loving care that you give them and will seek to provide them with the same educational opportunities that you would provide.

Another factor that must be considered is the proposed guardian’s age. A guardian must not be so young or old that they are unable to care for or cope with very young, adolescent, or teenage children. While age is an important consideration, a number of good candidates are often overlooked merely as a result of their age. Age may be a deciding factor among equally qualified candidates, but it should not automatically disqualify an otherwise appropriate selection.

Many young parents operate under the false assumption that a guardian must be their age or younger. Age has often been cited as a reason not to nominate grandparents or others as guardians but a healthy, loving relationship that already exists between children and a potential guardian is the single most important factor to consider when choosing a guardian. If you believe your child would receive love, nurturing, and care from a particular person, that single factor might outweigh any negatives such as age or relocation. In many cultures, the older members of extended families often help to raise children. Moreover, grandparents who are overlooked might contest your appointment in court, especially if individuals from outside the family are named.

Also consider the proposed guardian’s ability to financially care for your children. If the guardian is not financially equipped to care for your children it may cause an undue burden on the guardian’s family and lead to resentment against your children. For this reason, it is wise to consider leaving financial assistance to the guardian to help raise your minor children or help provide for a disabled adult.

You should also consider whether you would want your child raised by a single parent or by a married couple. If you name a couple, you should clearly state what you would want to happen if there is a death or divorce between the guardians.

Another factor that should be considered in selecting guardians is whether they have children of their own. If they do, ask yourself whether their children will be good playmates for yours. Also ask whether parents who already have children of their own will be able to handle the additional burden, especially since your children may have emotional problems that will require a lot of individual care and attention. Because of these issues, you should not automatically rule out individuals whose children are already grown or who have no children. Sometimes a family with children may better serve as a support network in which all the children can remain friends rather than become sibling rivals.

All of the above issues should be thoroughly discussed with the proposed guardian in order to ensure that the person you select is qualified and to make sure he or she is willing and able to serve. Also, in addition to the primary person you would like to serve as Guardian, it is always a good idea to name a backup in case the first person selected is unable to serve. This person is known as a “successor guardian,” and can serve if you decide to replace the primary guardian or if the primary guardian is unable or refuses to serve when needed.