20th June 2019
New study reveals – over 60% of UK parents unaware of the role and responsibility of Godparent versus Guardian regarding their children’s future
With Royal Christening confirmed and Archie Harrison’s godparents to be announced, new research finds that nearly 9 out of 10 UK parents have no legal guardian for the care of their children, with more than a third assuming the role lies with the godparents, putting any potential future decision over their child’s care in the hands of the Family Courts.
DATE 20th June 2019: Following the announcement of Archie Harrison’s christening, a new study on 1000 UK parents reveals that over a third mistakenly believe that a godparent has the same legal rights and responsibilities as a legal guardian, unknowingly leaving any potential future decision over their child’s care for the Family courts.
Rachel Carrington‐ Matthews Private Client Solicitor at Hedges Law which conducted the research said “With the announcement this week of royal baby Archie Harrison’s christening , there is much speculation in the media on who will be appointed Archie’s godparents with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s best friends, Jessica Mulroney and Charlie Van Straubenzee, tipped to be most likely. But whoever they are, Archie’s godparents will play a very different role to his legally appointed guardian, who in his case, as decreed by UK law, will be the Queen.
A legal guardian has responsibility for taking all parental decisions and sometimes, for managing a child's property and inheritance in the event of the parents’ death. Whereas a godparent has no legal standing and is often chosen to support the child’s upbringing and personal development.
Rachel continues “While the rest of us don’t have the convention of UK law to choose our children’s legal guardians, our findings show that, worryingly, most parents are still not appointing one. There is a concerning level of misunderstanding that godparents carry the same legal rights and responsibilities as a legal guardian.”
The study by leading law firm, Hedges Law, found that nearly 9 out of 10 (86%) UK parents have yet to appoint an official legal guardian with authority to care for their children in the event of their death.
Nearly two thirds (63%) admit to not knowing what a legal guardian is and a combined 62% incorrectly assume that legal custody will automatically fall with either a family member or godparent. A third (34%) said ‘I do not need to appoint a legal guardian as we already have godparents for our children’, highlighting the confusion among parents over the role of legal guardian versus godparent.
Rachel adds “Our study shows that a majority of parents incorrectly assume that in the event of the parents’ death, the legal authority to care for the child will automatically fall to the godparents or a family member so there’s no need to appoint a guardian but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“With no legal guardian stipulated in a parent’s will, then it will fall to the Family Court to decide upon who will have long term legal custody over the care of the child and that may not be the person the parents would have wanted. We always advise parents to not only appoint a guardian in their will but to include a letter defining the reasons for their choice so should the matter still go to the Family Courts; the Judge is clear on the reasons for the parents’ choice of carer.
“While appointing a guardian is one of the most important decisions a parent or parents can make, it is still, in my experience the least considered.”
Over half still yet to make a will
The study by Hedges Law also revealed that 48% of parents are yet to make a will, giving this as a reason for having not appointed a guardian.
Rachel said “Often, many parents believe that they are too young to make a will and that they do not have enough monetary assets, but making a will is actually one of the first things new parents should do, and during that process, appoint a legal guardian or guardians for their child or children.
“Although it is understandably hard to think about what might happen, it is extremely important to make your wishes known, and remember that the will can always be amended or updated at any time. By doing this enables the parents to choose and control who will look after their children in the event of their death.”
New study reveals over 60% of UK parents unaware of the role and responsibility of Godparent versus Guardian regarding their children's future
20th June 2019