Am I a guardian?

Most times, a parent is a guardian of their child, except where they have never lived with their child. A parent can be added or removed as a guardian by agreement or court order. A non-parent can become a guardian of a child through a court order.

When a family is living together, the parents have guardianship of their children. You and the other parent are both guardians and share parental responsibilities. Together, you are responsible for providing food, shelter and clothing and for making decisions about how the children will be raised.

After separation, each parent remains a guardian, unless the parents make an agreement or the court orders that one parent is not a guardian of the child. A parent’s responsibility towards their child does not change only because the parents have separated.

Where a parent has never lived with their child, the parent is not a guardian unless:

  • There is an agreement with the other parent that says they are a guardian, or
  • The parent regularly cares for their child. This may occur where a child is born after a short relationship where the parents did not live together, but both parents have been involved in the child’s life

In some cases, it may not be appropriate for a parent to remain a guardian. A parent can be removed as guardian by agreement or court order. If a parent is not a guardian, they can still have time with the child — contact — but will not have any parental responsibilities.

A step-parent is not a guardian unless the court has appointed them guardian of the child.

People other than parents can sometimes be guardians, but they must have a court order naming them a guardian.

A person who wants to become a guardian of a child must provide the court with information about their plans for the care of the child and about their history.

For more information, please see the fact sheets Parenting Apart and Guardianship: Parenting Time and Parenting Responsibilities by the Legal Services Society.