If you and your spouse have a child, it may seem obvious that Canadian law considers you parents. This title gives you the rights and responsibilities you may associate with parenting, many of which you may not give a second thought to, such as feeding or disciplining your child according to your standards and beliefs. The law calls these the duties of guardianship.
However, if you and your spouse separate or divorce, your role may go through an adjustment, not only practically but also in the eyes of the law. While you will remain a parent to your child, your guardianship responsibilities may change.
What does a guardian do?
Guardianship is a complex concept. It is an extension of your parenting, but after a divorce, you and your parenting partner may have to work to make the shared duties of guardianship run smoothly. The court will try to make your parenting time as equal as possible and divide other responsibilities according to the best interests of your child. Some of the responsibilities you have as guardian of your child include the following:
- Day-to-day care: For example, what the child will eat, what clothing the child will wear and even the kinds of television shows the child may watch
- Medical care: What doctor the child will see, decisions related to vaccinations, the kinds of medical treatment the child will require and whether the child will receive mental health care, for example
- Religion: Some examples include whether your child will attend church, what denomination he or she will be and how your child will express faith in daily life.
- Education: Whether your child will attend public or private schools, if your child could benefit from special education or advanced classes, what special skills to encourage (such as music or art)
- Information: What medical, educational and other details you have a right to know or a responsibility to share with your ex
- Legal and financial matters: How to spend child support payments, whether the child should have a bank account, how to handle an inheritance or award and other related matters
These and other responsibilities are part of the role of a guardian. You may be investigating this information for your own child, or you may be considering seeking guardianship of a child who is not biologically yours, such as a grandchild or a child whose parents have died. Guardianship provides necessary protections for a child, and it is important that you have a firm understanding of your responsibilities when a child’s future is on the line. Seeking information and guidance from a legal professional is a wise move.