Understanding Godparent Rights Under The Law

Blessing a child with godparents, and likewise, eager grandparents with a child, has been a tradition etched in Christian-based societies since as early as the 2nd Century. Godparents are selected by the parents of the child to bestow upon them the honor and privilege of stating, before God and the entire religious community, that they take responsibility for the child’s spiritual and religious journey. Accepting the role of a godparent is something that should not be taken lightly. It is a pledge to offer continuous guidance and mentorship and to foster a pure, Christian upbringing of the child, regardless of whether the child’s parents stray from the church or die.

As society and culture strays further from the strict teachings of the church, some remnants of religious traditions are left behind — though not always well understood or translated well into modern society. Such is the case with godparents. Historically, godparents were chosen based on their sound religious judgment and superior spiritual intellect. Where the parents may have been struggling, the godparents could offer the child strength. Over time, the concept of a godparent became one that would take over the parental responsibilities in the event of the child’s parents’ demise.


How does the ceremony-awarded responsibility translate to family law and custody rights? The simple answer is — it doesn’t. Unfortunately, under Colorado state law, a religious ceremony is just that, a ceremony. Legal paperwork must still be followed to make the ceremony hold legal meaning. Just like a marriage, if parents want to award custody to godparents in the event of their death, they must do so using a living will.

In the event that both genetic parents die and there is no living will expressly delegating legal custody to the godparents, the chain of custody will follow the natural family presumption. Natural family presumptions state that parents and grandparents have priority, and then active close family members. As an active godparent who takes their role as a moral advisor seriously, you may have grounds to petition the court for custody. In the event that you elect to petition the court for custody, you will simply have to prove that you have taken an active role in the child’s life, contribute positively to the welfare of the child, and that awarding custody to you over other family members is in the child’s best interest.

After reading all this, you may be wondering what is the takeaway? The short answer is that godparents do not have legal custodial rights. However, in the event that the child’s parents die, you may be able to petition the Colorado family court for custody of your godchild.

If you are in a family situation that seems to have a lot of grey areas, contact the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm today. I can help clear up any confusion you may have and are waiting to defend your family rights. Contact me for your consultation today.