Enlisting a legal guardian to look after your child: what you need to know

Enlisting a legal guardian to look after your child: what you need to know

There are several reasons why you may need to recruit a guardian for your child. Many parents choose to plan for unforeseen events by naming a guardian for any minor children (or adult children who are unable to care for themselves due to a disability) in their will. You may also find yourself unable to continue caring for your child during your lifetime.

If you are fortunate, the child has another involved parent and the choice as to who will be the child’s guardian if something prevents you from caring for your child is easy. For more information about what you need to know about enlisting a legal guardian to look after your child, contact one of our family law lawyers today.

What is a legal guardian?

A child’s guardian is responsible for ensuring that the child has everything they need such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care. The guardian is also responsible for:

  • providing emotional, physical, psychological and financial support and guidance
  • making major decisions about the child’s cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual heritage
  • making decisions relating to the child’s education
  • making decisions relating to where the child will live (and with whom)
  • providing consent for the child’s medical care
  • providing consent for legal purposes and representing the child in a lawsuit.

How to transfer guardianship of a child

In Alberta, a child’s parents are automatically the child’s guardians. A person can also become a guardian if:

  • they are appointed by a court order, or
  • they are named in a will written by the child’s parent or guardian as a replacement guardian for the child (this must be confirmed by the court).

When you transfer guardianship of a child, the guardianship duties can be divided. In some circumstances, it might make sense to appoint one guardian who is in charge of the child in most respects and will care for the child’s person, but to appoint a second person who is in charge of a specific aspect, such as the child’s finances or legal concerns.

How to choose a legal guardian for your child

Most parents choose a replacement guardian for their child from among their close family and friends. Ideally, the replacement guardian should be someone with whom the child already has a close relationship. If the child is at least 12 years old, the court will ask the child’s opinion before appointing or approving a guardianship order, so take your child’s wishes into consideration.

Other factors that you may wish to consider include:

  • the child’s age
  • the age of the guardian
  • specific needs the child may have and the guardian’s ability to accommodate those needs
  • where the guardian lives and their willingness to relocate if necessary
  • how the child will fit into the guardian’s life and the guardian’s willingness and ability to make any necessary changes
  • the guardian’s personal beliefs and outlook with respect to raising a child, religion, spirituality, education and anything else that is particularly important to you.

It is generally a good idea to nominate an alternate guardian, just in case your first choice becomes unable or unwilling to accept the child’s guardianship.

If you fail to appoint a replacement guardian, the court will choose one for you if necessary. The person chosen by the court may not be the person you or your child would have preferred. One of our family law professionals can tell you everything you need to know about enlisting a legal guardian to look after your child. Contact us today.

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