I have two siblings: a younger brother "Todd", and an older brother "Jack". Todd is a single father of three (realtor; lives in Canada; wife left for Europe and hasn't been in the family's life for 5 years now). Jack still lives in Canada (Toronto) with his wife and two kids, and is a wealthy civil engineer. Jack had a falling out with a lot of the family years back when he started college, since our entire extended family is deeply religious (Catholic, Greek Catholic, etc), and when he "came out", most of the family "disowned" him (i.e. parents took him out of the will unless he "repents", most family members save for a couple in-laws ignore him, etc). Since we're all "family", he visits every second Christmas/Easter/Thanksgiving, brings overpriced gifts for Todd's kids and whatever nieces/nephews he gets to see, etc.

I have a big problem: I was the only person around who could accept the role of godfather for Todd's kids, and he's suffering from terminal cancer. I travel between the US and Europe a lot, and don't even own property in Canada. I'm in no position to take on three young children as a surrogate parent.

Jack and his wife told me privately that they would assume responsibility for the children provided:

  • Half of Todd's assets and (eventual) inheritance from our parents goes into a trust fund for Todd's kids (tuition, down payment for a house later in life, etc).
  • The other half of Todd's "wealth" goes into a trust for Jack and his wife to cover additional living expenses for the kids. If the fund is ever exhausted before the kids hit 18, Jack and his wife cover the remaining expenses (toys, clothes, summer camp, etc) out of pocket. If any funds remain at that point, they get deposited into TFSA/RRSP for the kids.
  • Only one dollar is given to Todd's ex in our parents' will, to avoid her having a way to claim she was "forgotten".
  • The "tough" part: Jack has no intention of raising the kids catholic. He intends to debunk it gradually with the kids, and even insists he'll pay for their private school/college fund out of pocket if it means they go to a secular school to "break the cycle of sickness" (he really despises religion).

How can I convince Todd and my parents to delegate rearing Todd's kids to Jack? I imagine Todd and my parents will flat-out refuse the idea. Is it possible to "send" the kids to live with Jack and his wife after I've assumed the role of their legal guardian, or is there a "bad faith" element there (no pun intended)? I can't take care of these kids, my parents are too frail to watch them, Todd's dying, and no other relatives have stepped up to the task. I don't want these kids winding up in a community home because of Jack and our parents being stubborn over ideological differences.

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    As the current active parent, what does Todd actually want? He is their father. I can imagine the answer would primarily involve assisting him in making the correct decision and working out his options with him of what is best.
    – Tim
    Nov 14, 2017 at 14:55
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    I am having problems with this question. Why isn't Todd making this decision? Have you told him of your planned subterfuge? That is a gaping hole in this question making it unclear. Any answer provided would be purely opinion. Who says kids have to go to family? Some friends of ours made my husband and I the legal guardians in case of death. Where is the other biological parent in this situation? This is unclear as proposed. If you can edit to make it clearer, please do so, and flag for review for reopening. Nov 14, 2017 at 15:51
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    Being the god-parent means little unless you are named in a legal document to "take over" as legal guardian should both parents die. As a god-father myself, I have little legal claim to the child I am god-father to.
    – user20343
    Nov 14, 2017 at 17:38
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    "How can I convince Todd and my parents to delegate rearing Todd's kids to Jack?" - Irrelevant, because you shouldn't do that - that's between Todd, his Ex, and Jack. What's between you and Todd, is that you need to inform him as soon as possible that you won't be able to take care of the kids, if there actually is such a wish.
    – Peter
    Nov 14, 2017 at 20:55

1 Answer 1


I have some documents in place to specify that I don't want a certain pair of relatives from getting custody of my children. I am horrified at the idea of them getting control over my kids despite my wishes and legal instructions.

In our case, this pair of relatives are closely related, financially comfortable, and capable of raising children (they have four, now grown). If I don't specify guardians in the event of my death, they'd have a reasonable claim and would quite likely be awarded custody. But this pair is also emotionally abusive and unable to handle conflict or contradiction. I know they would be damaging to my oldest, but incredibly disastrous for my middle and youngest (both mildly autistic, they deal very poorly with shouted commands and insults). And I don't want that to happen.

I've had long conversations with the people I do have designated as guardians about issues we consider important in "transitioning" the child-rearing: finance, special needs, and also religion. While I haven't actually had this transition discussion with the wanna-be guardians, I know that the only thing they'd be happy to shoulder is the finances. Neither of the guardian-families share our religion, but both are willing to support the kids in their faith as long as they choose to pursue it. And somewhat more important to me, both guardian-families have made an effort to learn about autism, how it affects my kids in particular, and how they'd need to adjust their natural responses -- whereas the wanna-bes critique my parenting style towards those two and gossip to other family members about how they'd do things completely differently.

If Jack wants to be the guardian of his nieces/nephews, he needs to respect the wishes of their parent(s). And ultimately, so do you. Turning over care of the children to somebody you know Todd wouldn't want as their parent is an abrogation of your responsibility to respect his wishes. There need to be some very serious conversations with everybody involved.

  • I would have thought the guardian's responsibility is towards the children, and not towards the children's parents.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 15, 2017 at 22:45
  • Of course, but when there's a philosophical difference between the parents and the guardians over the appropriate way to raise children, that needs to be accounted for. If Jack died and his atheist children were subsequently indoctrinated in Catholicism by Todd, for example, I'd consider that a similar betrayal.
    – Acire
    Nov 15, 2017 at 23:08

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