Solution Brief: Guardianship Plan Checklist 

A Guardianship Plan is a written record that you prepare as parents, detailing what you want for your child if both (or either) parent dies or can no longer perform their role as parent or guardian. 

Background 

The aim of your Guardianship Plan is to provide a set of useful guidelines or instructions for those persons who you, as the child’s parents, choose to appoint as the guardian of your child. 

The purpose is to ensure that your chosen guardian(s), who will then have care and responsibility for your child until they reach adulthood, (and who is also likely to have an ongoing special relationship with your child for the rest of their life), will know what you want for your child – if you are not there yourself. 

What a Guardianship Plan covers

Your Guardianship Plan can cover the full range of life and lifestyle issues that you consider to be relevant to the welfare and upbringing of your child. 

More common issues include: 

  • The people who you would like to be involved in your child’s life, even through they have not been named as a legal guardian of your child. For example, close family friends and grandparents; 
  • Their general living environment; 
  • Their schooling; 
  • Religious instruction or exposure; 
  • Aspects of their upbringing generally; and 
  • Any other matters important to you as a parent. 

Why should you prepare a Guardianship Plan?

Your Will generally only covers the needs of your child from a financial and legal perspective. (That said, your Will may, by implication, set certain lifestyle rules or expectations by means of the control of money.) 

However, there are many more issues that are central to your child’s well-being in addition to money. The purpose of the Guardianship Plan is to bridge that gap. 

The benefits of taking the time to prepare a Guardianship Plan include: 

  • The process of preparing your Guardianship Plan will focus you on the issues that are central to your child’s well-being and ongoing development; 
  • The process will result in a well thought out life and lifestyle plan for your child. This plan is a written agenda that can serve you personally, as much as it will, if necessary, serve your guardian; 
  • It will provide your guardian with an insight into your wishes for your child; and 
  • If one parent dies or is no longer able to participate in the upbringing of your child, the surviving parent will not be left completely alone in making important decisions about the many issues that face a parent in bringing up a child – ranging from the mundane to the more philosophical. 

Legal status of your Guardianship Plan

When Courts are asked to consider an issue that has an impact on your child they will be asked to consider and make a judgement on “what is in the best interests of your child”. 

If you, as a parent, have taken the time and effort to prepare a written plan concerning your child’s well bring, then your instructions will have a significant bearing on the decision reached by the Court – unless there are compelling reasons for the Court to act otherwise. 

Your wishes can only be taken into account and respected if they are recorded. 

It is an unfortunate truth that many relationships do not last over the longer term, and end in separation or divorce. If parents have put in writing their considered views as to the upbringing of their child, including a consensus on key welfare and lifestyle issues, a whole range of potential areas for conflict are removed. A Guardianship Plan can in fact be taken as far as a “Parenting Agreement” and sanctioned by the Family Court. That said, the purpose of your Guardianship Plan is to address issues that relate to your child’s upbringing, rather than the more contentious issue of child custody. The focus of the document is your child, not you as parents. 

Detailed contents and style

The issues that you choose to cover in your Guardianship Plan are a matter of personal choice. Emphasis varies from parent to parent. The purpose of this letter is to set out a number of the more common issues, to act as a prompt for your consideration. 

There is no preferred style for a Guardianship Plan. The important factor is that it is written, and clearly understood. 

Our job is to act as an independent party to: 

  • Provide you with prompts as to likely issues of relevance; 
  • Assist you in actually considering the issues, and documenting your views – acting as a “project manager” – to ensure that it actually gets done; and 
  • Provide our opinion on issues that may not appear to us to be clearly expressed – to avoid confusion for the persons to whom to the document is aimed; 

What next?

If you would like to speak to someone about putting in place a Guardianship Plan, call us on 1300 654 590 or email us.

To download a PDF of our solution brief (including the checklist), enter your email below.

 

The information contained in this post is current at the date of editing – 30 May 2019.

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