How To Make Someone Legal Godparents: Ways and Legal Process

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By Divorce & Finance

Learning how to make someone legal godparents is an excellent way for parents to ensure there is someone to take care of their children when they pass on. However, most people don’t understand that godparents aren’t legal guardians – they are mentors who serve religious and cultural roles. Yet, parents can name godparents as guardians to bestow the duties and responsibilities provided by the law.

How to make someone legal godparents

This article discusses how parents can make godparents guardians and the rights and responsibilities that come with it.

Key Takeaways

  • Legal Godparents vs. Guardians: Godparents are religious mentors, not legal guardians. However, parents can legally appoint godparents as guardians.
  • Naming in Will: Godparents can be named as guardians in a will, but court approval is needed, considering the child’s best interests.
  • Guardianship Petition: Filing a guardianship petition in court is a method to appoint godparents as guardians, involving several steps and a hearing.
  • Parental Appointment: In some states, parents can directly appoint godparents as guardians without court involvement, but certain conditions apply.
  • Rights and Responsibilities: Guardians have extensive legal rights and responsibilities, including caring for the child’s well-being and managing their finances.
  • Christening Ceremony: Godparents traditionally participate in a Christening ceremony, representing a spiritual role, with varying church requirements for baptism.
  • Legal Assistance: The appointment of a guardian is a complex process; consulting a family law attorney is advisable.
  • Distinction and Roles: It is crucial to understand the distinction between godparents and guardians, their roles, rights, and responsibilities.

How Do You Make Someone a Legal Godparent?

To make someone a legal godparent, the process depends on your state laws, but it can be done by naming godparents as the guardian in your will, filing a petition for guardianship of a child, or signing a form to appoint a guardian in front of witnesses.

This answer the question “How to make someone legal godparents?” But what about “Are guardians the legal equivalent of godparents?” No, guardians and godparents aren’t the same. Guardians are appointed by a court to care for a child if the child’s parents die or become incapacitated. They have the same legal rights and responsibilities as parents, including the responsibility for the child’s upbringing, education, and health care.

On the other hand, a godparent is chosen by the parents or church to be their child’s spiritual mentor and guide. The role of a godparent is primarily religious and is typically associated with the child’s baptism or confirmation in the Christian faith. While guardians and godparents play important roles in a child’s life, they serve different purposes and responsibilities.

1. Prepare the Necessary Documents 

There is no specific godparent legal paperwork one is required to fill, as the role of a godparent is a religious one rather than a legal one. However, many churches need godparents to be baptized and confirmed members of the same faith as the child they will be sponsoring and may ask for proof of this.

Additionally, some churches may require godparents to attend pre-baptism classes or meetings. It’s best to check with your church or religious organization for their requirements. Generally, don’t expect to sign a godparent contract or receive a godparent certificate when your are made a godparent.

2. Name Godparents as Legal Guardians in Your Will

Unsure how to make someone a legal godfather? It’s possible to do so in your will. However, naming a guardian in a will isn’t legally binding, and the court will make the final decision based on the child’s best interests.

It is also important to discuss your wishes with your chosen godparents and make sure they are willing and able to take on the role of guardian before including them in your will. Additionally, it is recommended to have a backup plan in case your first choice is unable to take on the role or if the court disapproves of the named guardian.

In some states, the law requires that the child agrees with your choice of guardian if they are 14 or older. At this age, courts in most states can listen and consider the child’s preference.

3. File a Guardianship Petition in Court

If a will names godparents as the preferred guardians, a probate court may appoint the guardian per the will. Parents who feel that their minor children need a guardian during the parent’s lifetime must file a petition to have the godparent appointed as the guardian.

File a guardianship petition in court

The godparent can also file a petition asking the court to appoint you as the child’s guardian. The process for filing a guardianship petition in court varies depending on the jurisdiction. You’ll need to find the appropriate guardianship papers from your state’s probate, family, or surrogate court.

Generally, you’ll need to take the following steps during the process:

  • Obtain and fill out the necessary forms, typically found on the court website where the petition will be filed. If you’re not the parent, getting written consent from the parent would help.
  • File the completed forms with the proper court and any required fees. Ensure that you keep copies of the petition and other necessary papers.
  • Serve notice of the petition to the interested parties, including the proposed ward (the person for whom a guardian is being sought) if they’re 14 or older, both parents, any foster parents, or the proposed ward’s legal representatives.
  • Attend a hearing on the petition, at which the court will hear evidence and testimony regarding the proposed ward’s need for a guardian and the qualifications of the proposed guardian. Prepare for court by gathering vital documents, such as the child’s birth certificate and written consent.
  • You can also expect to attend a hearing with the child on a date provided by the court. If the court finds guardianship appropriate, it will issue an order appointing the guardian and outlining their duties and responsibilities. The court’s decision can be from the bench or rendered as a written notice and orders or a letter of guardianship.
  • The appointed guardian will need to file an acceptance of appointment form with the court and will have to follow the court order and any state laws for the duration of the guardianship.

The specific requirements and procedures may vary depending on your jurisdiction, and it is best to check with the court and consult with an attorney for guidance on the specific process in your area.

4. Parental Appointment of a Legal Guardian Top of Form

In states such as Massachusetts, parents can appoint someone, say a godparent, as the guardian to care for their child if they die or are incapacitated before the child attains the age of majority.

If you’re wondering how to make someone a legal guardian in case of death, this process could help as the appointment becomes effective after the death or incapacitation of the parent. Parents don’t have to go to court to appoint a guardian for their child.

The process for parental appointment of a guardian is relatively straightforward: the parent appoints the guardian in writing and signs the document in front of two witnesses. If the person agrees to be the guardian, they must accept in writing.

Parental appointment of a guardian stays in effect until the first of the following scenarios occurs:

  • The court appoints a legal guardian
  • The appointing parent or guardian invalidates the appointment
  • The child (if they’re 14 or older), one of the parents, or a third party who has had custody of the child file an objection

The appointed guardian must file the following in the family and probate court in the child’s county of residence not later than 30 days after the appointment becomes effective:

    • An acceptance of appointment notice
    • A signed copy of the written appointment from the parents
    • A Petition for Appointment of Guardian of Minor

5. Make Them Aware of Guardians Rights and Responsibilities

Generally, guardians have a fiduciary duty towards the child — they owe them a duty of trust and must always act in a way that complements the child’s best interests. Guardians are trusted to make the best decisions on behalf of the child. While their rights and responsibilities may vary depending on the jurisdiction, they have the right to make decisions on behalf of the child regarding their care and well-being, including medical treatment, education, and living arrangements.

They can also access the child’s personal, financial, and medical information to make informed decisions. Moreover, they can take legal action on behalf of the ward. Guardians also have various responsibilities, including acting in the child’s best interests at all times. They are also tasked with providing the child with basic needs, including food, shelter, clothing, and medical care.

Guardians should also ensure that the child receives necessary medical, psychological, or educational services. Furthermore, they must manage the ward’s finances and property, including paying bills, collecting income, estate planning, and investing assets. They are also responsible for submitting regular reports to the court about the child’s condition and actions, following the court order and any state laws for the duration of the guardianship, and seeking the court’s permission before making significant decisions.

State laws and specific court orders define the rights and responsibilities of guardians, and it’s essential to consult with an attorney and be familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction before handling this responsibility.

6. Perform a Christening Ceremony

In the traditional sense, a godparent is a person chosen by the parents or the church to serve as a spiritual mentor and guide for a child, usually during a Christening ceremony. This ceremony is a sacrament in the Christian faith, usually in Catholic and Anglican churches, where the child is baptized. The godparent is involved in the ceremony by making promises on behalf of the child. However, there are cases where people have chosen godparents for their children without a formal christening ceremony.

Such individuals may choose a person to act as a spiritual mentor and guide for their child and refer to them as godparents informally. No certificate or legal document is associated with this informal role as it is more of a symbolic gesture.

Perform a christening ceremony

Can someone be a godparent if they are not baptized? The requirements for being a godparent vary depending on the church or religious organization. In some Christian denominations, such as the Catholic Church, godparents must be baptized and confirmed members of the same faith as the child they will be sponsoring.

Ideally, the role of a godparent is to help guide the child in their faith and to serve as an example of living a Christian life. Therefore, it would be difficult for an unbaptized person to fulfill this role. However, if you’re unsure how to become a godparent without church involvement, it would be comforting to note that some Christian denominations are less strict with their requirements. A person may be considered a godparent without baptism, provided they are willing to support the child in their faith journey.

Conclusion

If you’re wondering how to make someone legal guardian of your child, you might have had the assumption that guardians are the legal equivalent of godparents. However, that’s far off the mark as discussed in this article, and below are the main things to keep in mind:

  • To bestow any legal rights to godparents, parents must appoint them as guardians through a court process.
  • Parent appointment of a guardian for a child isn’t always legally binding, and the court has to approve the named guardian.
  • Guardians have a fiduciary duty towards the child, meaning they are trusted to make the best decision for the child and further their best interests.
  • Godparents aren’t guardians, meaning they don’t have any legal rights or responsibilities since their role is purely religious or cultural.

Appointing a guardian for your child through a court isn’t a simple process. Hiring an experienced family law attorney can help you follow the stipulated process and deal with unexpected hurdles.

References

1. North Carolina Judicial Branch. (n.d.). Guardianship.
https://www.nccourts.gov/help-topics/guardianship/guardianship

2. The New York Times. (n.d.). Legal Guardian.
https://www.nytimes.com/article/legal-guardian.html

3. Texas Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Guardianship.
https://www.hhs.texas.gov/regulations/legal-information/guardianship

4. Forbes. (2018, May 29). Selecting Your Children’s Guardians Is Very Different Than Naming Their Godparents.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/robclarfeld/2018/05/29/selecting-your-childrens-guardians-is-very-different-than-naming-their-godparents/

5. New York State Unified Court System. (n.d.). Child Guardianship.
https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/guardianship/child.shtml

6. Florida Courts. (n.d.). Family Court in Florida: Guardianship.
https://www.flcourts.gov/Resources-Services/Office-of-Family-Courts/Family-Court-in-Florida/Guardianship

7. Mass.gov. (n.d.). Massachusetts Law About Guardians and Caregivers.
https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-law-about-guardians-and-caregivers

8. Virginia Law Library – The Library of Virginia. (n.d.). Title 64.2 – Subtitle IV – Part C – Virginia Code Title 64.2 – Subtitle IV – Part C – Guardianship and Conservatorship of Adults with Incapacity: General Provisions
https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacodefull/title64.2/subtitleIV/partC/

9. Maine Legislature – Maine Revised Statutes Online – Maine.gov. (n.d.). Title 18-C, §5-202: Appointment of guardian for minor; standard of proof
https://www.legislature.maine.gov/legis/statutes/18-C/title18-Csec5-202.html

10. Utah Courts – Self-Help Center – Guardianship and Conservatorship – Minor Guardianship – Utah Courts
https://www.utcourts.gov/en/self-help/case-categories/gc/guardianship/minor.html

11. Tennessee Department of Education – Legal – Legal POA Minor Child Form [PDF]
https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/education/legal/legal_poa_minor_child_form.pdf

12. Connecticut Department of Developmental Services – Family Individuals and Families – Guardianship
https://portal.ct.gov/DDS/Family/Family-Individuals-and-Families/Guardianship

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