Roles of Godparents & Legal Guardians

Godparents and guardians can both play an important role in the life of a child but they have different origins and their roles are also different.

Although, in the Christian faith tradition, godparents were once legally responsible for caring for an orphaned child, today godparents do not have any legal responsibility.  The child’s legal guardians now assume the role of the parent if the parent has passed away.  A godparent can still help the parent raise a child by providing spiritual guidance and support to the child.

Godparents are usually appointed by the parent at the child’s Christian baptism.  Legal guardians are most often appointed in the parent’s Will.  Appointment in a Will is the best way to make sure that the parent’s wishes for legal guardians are respected.

Often godparents do not change during a child’s lifetime, whereas legal guardians can and often do change.  As personal circumstances change, and families relocate and grow, that child’s legal guardians might need to change.  The consent of a former legal guardian is not required to appoint a new legal guardian.  Likewise, a parent who has made a Will without appointing a legal guardian for a child can change the Will at any time to add an appointment of a legal guardian.

Of course, the same person can be named as both a child’s godparent and as legal guardian!  However, as they have different origins and roles, they must be appointed separately to each role.


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