Legal guardianship and adoption share several characteristics that make them seem similar. It’s perhaps why many people confuse them. While both involve taking over the responsibility to care for a child and provide a stable environment for their growth, they are two distinct legal processes with significant differences.
First, the definitions under the law differ. Legal guardianship is a legal process whereby a person other than a parent is given custody of a child and the authority to make decisions on behalf of the child. It could be a grandparent, a relative or a court-appointed guardian.
On the other hand, adoption establishes a new parent-child relationship by permanently transferring parental rights from the biological parents to the adoptive parents.
The parental rights and roles of the biological parents of a child are practically terminated after adoption. Once an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents become the child’s legally recognized parents. This means they enjoy similar rights and responsibilities to biological parents.
With legal guardianship, a child’s biological parents may still retain some rights, such as the right to visit the child or make certain decisions regarding the child’s care. In addition, legal guardianship can be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances. In most cases, it ends when the child turns 18 or if a court terminates the guardianship. However, adoption is always permanent. The adoptive parents will remain the legal parents even after the child becomes an adult.
Which is the best option?
Should you seek legal guardianship or adoption? There is no straightforward answer to this question. It all depends on the unique aspects of every situation and the individual family’s needs. However, having the necessary information about how things work and the processes involved will help you make an informed decision.