Many years ago the word ‘god’ in godparent was quite literal. They were appointed by parents to help ensure the child’s admission into the church and guide them through spiritual enlightenment.
Today godparents perform a different role that’s often less religious – or not religious at all. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the modern godparent, explore their legal rights and explain the difference between a godparent and a legal guardian.
What is a godparent?
Today a godparent can be different things to different people. For those who aren’t religious a godparent can be someone who’s chosen to be a friend and mentor for their child – another adult they can turn to instead of their parents.
For those who are religious godparents may take on a more formal role. Christian godparents, for example, are usually involved in the baptism – professing the faith of the child being baptised. They may assume responsibility for the child’s spiritual development and stand as an example of a person with faith in god.
Whether religious or not, a godparent usually assumes some responsibility for a child’s wellbeing, and may be expected to care for a child if their parents cannot.
Do godparents have legal rights?
In short, godparents do not have legal rights. This is a purely ceremonial, informal role that is not governed by the law and therefore does not come with legal responsibilities or requirements.
That means, in the event that a child’s parents pass away or are otherwise unable to care for their child, the godparent will not automatically be named their carer. Instead the family law courts will consider what is in the best interests of the child and what their parents wishes were and act accordingly.
What’s the difference between a legal guardian and a godparent?
While a godparent has no legal rights in Australia, legal guardians do. They take on full responsibility for ensuring that all of a child’s social, emotional and cultural needs are met. It is their right and responsibility to make choices around a child’s health and education, provide them food and shelter, and generally act as a parent might.
If you have children under the age of 18 they will need a legal guardian in the event that you pass away or are unable to care for them.
To ensure they are cared for by someone you trust, it’s essential that you prepare a will detailing who will be the legal guardian of your child if something happens to you. If you don’t have a will the family court will appoint a legal guardian for you.
Do I need to prepare a will?
Wills are important for many reasons. They give you control over your possessions and property, allowing you to choose who gets what when you’re gone. But most importantly they detail who you wish to care for your child if you and/or your partner pass away.
This saves both your children and their potential carers and/or godparents the stress of being processed by the family court, and ensures your wishes for your child’s care are carried out as per your intentions. For this reason it’s especially important to have a will if you have children under the age of 18.
Luckily preparing a will can be simple and affordable – get in touch with the experts at Testart Family Law to get started.