Ex-etiquette: can you be godfather to your ex’s new child?

What are the responsibilities and pitfalls of being a godparent to your ex-wife and her new husband’s child?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 11:08am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 11:08am

My ex and I have been co-parenting our kids for the last three years. About a year ago she married a guy I really like and that has made things easier. Recently they told me my ex was pregnant, and asked me to be their child’s godfather. Sounds a little weird to me. What’s good ex-etiquette?

Right now it may seem unconventional, but you’re not the first to ask me this question. What it means is that you’re doing such a good job at co-parenting that your ex’s husband believes you’ll even put his child first when called to do so. From the request it’s obvious that you’ve been practising good ex-etiquette.

Before we go further, let’s examine what being a godparent means. The duties associated with the request can vary culturally and from family to family. In some families being a godparent is merely an honorary position. In others the godparent is like a second parent and a fundamental part of the child’s spiritual education. In essence, a godparent’s role is to serve as a mentor and stay involved with the child should his or her own parents be unable to guide them. It is the godparent’s responsibility that the children remain solid in their faith if the biological parents pass on.

More and more being asked to be the godparent signifies that you’re the one the parents see raising the child if something happens to them. Get clear on that one. Ask what being this child’s godparent means to them and what they expect of you. If it’s more than you want to take on, be honest. (Good ex-etiquette for Parents rule #8, “Be honest and straightforward.”) Being a godparent is a huge compliment – but also a huge responsibility.

Be prepared for possible pitfalls. It sounds as if you don’t have someone in your life now, but you probably will. Being someone’s godparent will require you to interact very closely with the child – and with his parents. It’s not uncommon for new partners to understand the need to interact with your own children, but not your ex’s children – some distinguish between the two. That could upset your well-balanced apple cart. Anyone you choose will have to go along with the programme from day one for you to remain successful.

Finally, you shouldn’t be surprising that they’ve asked you to do this – you’re actually the logical choice. There are other half siblings in the mix and you being designated the one to have the kids means that the siblings will be raised together. Personally, I remember the first time my bonus kids’ dad and I went out of the country. As I returned the kids to their mother (plus mine and ours – she was watching them all) I realised we had no one designated to take the kids should something happen to us. It was a very sentimental moment that also makes me laugh a little. Her words as we pulled away to drive to the airport were, “I don’t know how I’ll do it, but I promise they’ll all go to college.” Luckily, she never had to make that decision alone.

Tribune News Service

Jann Blackstone is the author of Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation