Back to school for kids is also an opportune time for adults to educate themselves on what the rights and responsibilities of being a guardian of a child are.

Typically, the guardians of a child are their mother and father and they must act jointly when making decisions such as where they go to school and whether they should be given certain medical treatments. Other people can be appointed guardians of a child by the Family Court under the provisions of the Care of Children Act 2004.

The Act governs decisions regarding the guardianship, day-to-day care and contact arrangements for children among other things. Day-to-day care (or custody) means a child lives with one parent, who is primarily responsible for that child.

If spouses break up, they should endeavour to agree upon day-to-day care and contact arrangements between themselves. Failing agreement, disputes can be settled through Family Dispute Resolution or the Family Court.

In the event of death, a deceased parent can appoint a testamentary guardian of their child in their Will. This person shares guardianship with the surviving parent. If both parents pass away, guardianship is undertaken by the testamentary guardians specified in the Wills.  

A testamentary guardian is responsible for all major decisions about the child, including where they live and who will care for them.

If parents do not have Wills appointing a testamentary guardian, wider family members may need to apply to the Court for the appointment of a guardian.

It is recommended you seek legal advice on guardianship matters and Wills to ensure the welfare and best interests of your children are given top priority.

Featured in The Weekend Sun - 15 February 2019