There is a high chance, if you are reading this post on my website, you may be expecting a baby, or had one recently. With all the chaos surrounding the delivery, hospital appointments and preparations to welcome a new member of the family into your home, you might have never thought of anything as sad as not being there for your child to see them grow up. Even if you had a brief moment, when you though about it, the sheer realisation someone else could be raising your own children put shivers down your spine. No wonder so many parents don’t get around to appointing a legal guardian for their kids.
Even if somehow we managed to sit down and discuss the subject with our partner, there’s always the question remaining: who would we choose? The list of our requirements may be long: they need to be solvent, good with kids, fairly young but mature, affectionate towards our kids, good role models.. They need to be able to provide your kids with a happy, fulfilled childhood and good fundaments for their future. The more qualities we are after in our kids’ potential guardians, the more we struggle to think of someone suitable, and the conversation ends there.
The problem is that if you don’t make the decision now, someone else might do it for you, most likely social services or the courts.
I always assumed that our immediate family can step in, should they agree, and adopt my kids. Whether it’s my mum or my sister, my husband’s family or our best friends, I’d be happy with most of those options. Anything but social services!
The truth is, unless you specifically enlist those people in your will, even if they would like to adopt your kids after your death, they may not be able to. Obviously, having someone recorded in your will as a chosen legal guardian for your kids doesn’t guarantee they would agree to it, should the situation require them to make that decision, and your baby could still end up being adopted by a complete stranger. Alternatively, courts and social services may still refuse to grant the adoption by anyone chosen by you. Having someone who is willing to adopt your children enlisted in your will doesn’t guarantee anything, it makes the courts look at your case more favourably though and it’s more likely your wishes will be granted, if you get them down on paper.
Nobody wants to think about themselves dying, least of all if you are a parent of young kids, but those scenarios happen every day and we need to make sure we are ready as it can be even harder for our children, if they are faced not only with our death, but also with the uncertainty of what happens next.
In order to make the best decision for our kids, we need to try and imagine ourselves in our children’s shoes. Where would they feel safe and comfortable, with someone they trust? Where would they want to be? Who loves them unconditionally, not out of duty but because of who they are?
Another thing we need to consider when choosing a legal guardian for our offspring, is the family status. Should we choose someone who already has kids of their own and who knows what to expect? Then there is a downside to this too, as with them already having kids, it may make your own feel like “second best”. This is of course not always the case, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
If you only have one child, would you prefer them to join a larger family, and potentially share limited space, or would you like them to stay with someone who hasn’t got kids of their own to have as much time and attention as possible? You never know, they may love being a part of larger family!
If you have more than one child, try to ensure your kids stay together. Having to deal with the death of their parents is traumatic enough without having to deal with the separation as well. Splitting your kids up in the time of a major trauma can be really damaging. It’s in times like that they would need each other more than ever. You are trying to make sure they have some sort of stability and continuity even when you are gone. If it’s possible to find someone who would be suitable to take over your parenting role, and who lives in the area, it would be ideal, as it leaves your kids the support network they have around them now in form of friends. Obviously it’s less important with infants and toddlers, but when your children reach the school age, their friends are paramount.
You would like them to have as smooth a transition as possible, so picking someone with similar values and parenting style is very important in order to avoid a culture shock on top of all the stressful changes happening in their lives.
Don’t cross people out just because they haven’t got enough space in their home to accommodate your kids. I’d like to think you already have a life insurance in place, so you can always leave instructions for the provision of funds for your chosen guardian to build an addition to their home or move somewhere more spacious.
Having a legal guardian appointed is not only important in families, where one parent has already died. My husband and I always travel together, and this prompted us to get the this matter sorted for our kids.
Remember you can always change your children’s chosen legal guardian as the relationship with them changes, or maybe if they move away from your home town. It’s not all set in stone but it’s good to make the initial provisions. It also doesn’t have to be one family, as you have the option to record additional person, in case your initial choice falls through.
If you cannot imagine your children being raised by a stranger or succession of them depending how strapped for cash social services are and how snowed under the adoption agencies are, find the time today and get your children’s legal guardianship in order.