Guardians For Your Minor Children
If you have children under the age of 18 then it is imperative that you make a Will appointing guardians for your children, in the event that you die. Not having a valid Will can have devastating consequence. Especially if you have young children as they could end up in the care of the local authority.
A Guardian(s) will have the same rights and responsibilities as you, as a parent. Therefore, it is crucial that you appoint people you completely trust. However, you can only appoint guardians if you, yourself, have Parental Responsibility.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
If you are a mother then you automatically have Parental Responsibility for your child/children.
Unfortunately, if you are a father you DON’T automatically have Parental Responsibility. You will only have parental responsibility if:
- At the time of the birth of your child, you were married to the mother. Or anytime later.
- If you are named as the father on your child’s Birth Certificate, even if you weren’t married to the mother. But only if your child was born on or after the 1st December 2003.
- If you have a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother; or
- If you have obtained a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court.
If you are an unmarried father of a child born before the 1st December 2003 who is under the age of 18, you do not NOT have Parental Responsibility even if you are named on the Birth Certificate.
You should also note that step-parents don’t have Parental Responsibility.
- Matt, his wife, Amy and their two children went on a holiday of a lifetime to California.
- Days before they were due to return home, they were in a fatal car crash which killed both Matt and Amy. Their children, Ava aged 6 and Lucas aged 4 both survived the crash with minor injuries.
- Neither Martin nor Amy had got round to making Wills and died intestate. And therefore, did not appoint any guardians for their daughters.
- Both Martin and Amy’s parents had passed away several years earlier. Martin had one estranged brother. Amy was an only child.
- Their children could now end up in the care of the local authority.
- Steve has a teenage son, Joe that lives with him and his wife, Lucy.
- Joe’s mother died when he was only 8. He has been living with his father and step-mother ever since.
- Steve went to work as normal one day but never returned home. He died unexpectedly, of a heart attack. He died intestate as he did not leave a Will.
- Lucy has no right to make any decisions relating to Joe. Even though she has been caring for him for the past 5 years. Joe could end up in care as he doesn’t have a legal guardian.
How can you obtain Parental Responsibility?
- Marry the mother of your child/children.
- Set up a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother of your child/children.
- Apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order.
- But most importantly, by the mother of your child/children appointing you as a guardian in her Will.
There was a very interesting article in the Telegraph a few years ago covering this very topic and emphasizing on the importance of making Wills and appointing guardians for your children. Click here to read it.
Unfortunately, the reality is that none of us know when our time will come to end, especially when we live in a world where we don’t know what’s round the corner. We hear of tragic accidents and terror attacks every day. The one thing we do know, is that everyone should have a Will in place regardless of age, relationship status and whether or not you have children. A Will is your chance to voice how you would like your affairs to be dealt with, when you are no longer here. And if you have children, you will have the peace of mind knowing that you, yourself, have chosen an appropriate guardian to look after them.
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