Understanding the difference between godparents and guardians

Godparents and guardians can both play a significant role in a child’s upbringing. However, some may not know there are some differences between the two.

While godparents and guardians can be role models throughout a child’s life, only one can provide legal protection and security if something happens to the parents.

Godparents vs. guardians: what’s the difference?

If someone is selected to be a godparent, they have more of a spiritual role than a legal one. While different cultures may vary on what the definition of a godparent is, their primary purpose is often helping facilitate a child’s baptism.

Guardians, on the other hand, often have much more responsibility. In many cases, a guardian establishes themselves by filing papers in court and obtaining consent from the parents. Once they do this, the guardian then has a fiduciary obligation to the child if the parents were to die or become incapacitated. Often, those who establish guardianship are accountable for the child’s welfare. Depending on the circumstances, guardians are usually responsible for deciding where the child will live, go to school and other parental duties until they turn 18.

Qualities of a responsible guardian

When selecting a guardian, parents should consider choosing one who has the resources and capability to act in the child’s best interests. These are some factors they may want to consider:

  • They are a legal adult.
  • They are both mentally and physically capable of taking care of a child.
  • They have the time to meet the child’s needs.
  • They are financially able to take care of the child with their income or the assets the child’s parents left behind for them.
  • They display good moral character.

Having a plan is important

If something happens to both parents, they often want to make sure their child is in good hands. Once parents find someone they wish to be their child’s caretaker, they may wish to seek legal counsel. An attorney can often help guide couples through complex guardianship laws and get their request established in writing.