If you and your spouse or partner named godparents for your children, such as at their baptisms, you may think that these people will step in and finish raising your children if something happens to you. Unfortunately, such is not the case.
While your children’s godparents may play important roles in their lives, providing them with love, guidance and companionship, FindLaw reports that godparents have no legal rights to custody, visitation or anything else pertaining to their godchildren.
Traditionally, godparents were adults who served as sponsors for the religious upbringing of their godchildren, particularly in Christian (mostly Catholic) and Jewish households. As such, they played a significant role in the children’s lives.
Today, however, the number of godparents has decreased significantly as secularization has outpaced religion. Many parents, however, choose to designate secular or social godparents for their children. They trust these adults, usually a family member or close friend, to help them raise their children.
The most important thing you should know about godparents is that this is an informal designation, not a legal one. A godparent has no more legal right to your children than any other member of the general public. Courts do not recognize godparents as guardians or custodians in the event something happens to the parents.
If you wish to make your children’s godparents their legal guardians if you and your spouse or partner die together, you must take proactive steps to do so. For instance, you can designate your children’s godparents as their legal guardians in your will. In addition, since minor children cannot own property in their own names, you may wish to establish a trust for your children’s benefit and name their godparents as successor trustees.