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I have a friend that just described her situation and I'm lost. Hopefully someone here can help me out. I'm a programmer so I'm using variables instead of names :)

  • A = my friend
  • B = her friend (female)
  • C & D = her friend's children
  • E & F = her friend's children's respective fathers

and the situation:

  • B is in the hospital on life support likely to die (malpractice suit in progress)
  • A is the god-mother of C & D
  • A is unmarried without room for the children but will change her environment if needed to qualify for custody
  • E has given up all rights as a father
  • F is a drug addict and shouldn't raise a child (subjective but true)

My question is this: What legal options does A have for obtaining custody of C & D?

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This is also highly dependent on the country. But in any case, a lawyer is the right way to go. – Lennart Regebro Jun 23 '11 at 9:07

Disclaimer .. IANAL, and A needs a lawyer.

I don't think there are inherent legal rights conferred by being a "god-parent".

However ... the real answer is it depends who is contesting. If no one contests, the court will award A custody. It will initially temporary, and she will need to petition for adoption after all is settled.

Relevant Issues:

  • What sort of legal provisions were made by B?
  • The ages of the children and their wishes and concerns.
  • Are there any other relatives of B or E&F around?
  • How big is the malpractice settlement going to be?
  • Is there any clear indications available that B intended for A to raise the kids.
  • Did E renounce paternity rights through a legal process?

Absent other relatives, B has a reasonable shot to get the C (the child of E), because E no longer has parental rights. It will be far harder to get D (the child of F), particularly if F gets an eye on the malpractice jackpot. The courts will search out F, and he will get the benefit of the doubt.

My advice to A ...

  2. Get the court to appoint the kids their own legal guardian(s) for the process.
  3. Work with the court appointed guardian/s and be clear that the kids are all that matters to you.
  4. Push to get trusts setup for the kids in the event they come into money through the litigation. The guardian/s should be able to do this.
  5. In case I wasn't clear enough ... GET A LAWYER.
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I don't know answers to all the questions you posed right now but you've given good info. I'll give it a few days for responses before accepting an answer but this is a good one. Thanks for the response. – rennat Jun 23 '11 at 6:20
I agree with tomjedrz. If she hasn't obtained a lawyer yet she's wasting valuable time. Whenever ANYTHING has to do with kids & custody, always ALWAYS ALWAYS get a lawyer and get it written up. – Darwy Jun 23 '11 at 6:52
@rennat: And if the lawyer doesn't ask the above questions: Go to another one. :-) – Lennart Regebro Jun 23 '11 at 9:08
Agreed, custodial issues without a will in place always requires a lawyer. If that has not started now, then you are wasting time. – MichaelF Jun 23 '11 at 12:27
Also, beyond being named a godparent. "A" would probably have to show her acting as a godparent. The more involvement in the daily life of the children the better. – Paul de Vrieze Jul 18 '11 at 15:22

Adding to tomjedrz...

Things to consider:

  • Who currently has physical custody of the children? If it is A, make it official with the authorities, such as a family court or child protective services. If not we will need more information.
  • What sort of documents are available to assert B's intentions? Find letters, emails, baptismal records, power of attorney as relates to medical decisions, and any others.
  • In addition to the fathers, what about grandparents of C & D: there should be six to choose from if still living.
  • What about siblings of B?
  • Does A want custody of the children or does A want to fulfill her commitments to B or does A want what's best for the children? This can be difficult to work through.
  • If being a godparent was part of a church ceremony approach the church for help.
  • Obtaining legal custody of children is often difficult and painful in the courts, in addition to the difficulty of actually taking children into your life unexpectedly. A may work through all of this and at the end find she can not accommodate the result.
  • What do the children want?

If A cannot afford a lawyer, especially as she may be taking on the needs of the children, seek out and obtain legal advice from charitable legal services. Sometimes called legal assistance or pro bono. Find a list of free service providers here from the American Bar Association.

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