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Adoption and Guardianship

The difference between Legal Adoption and Legal Guardianship

People often use the terms guardianship and adoption interchangeably. However, there is a great deal of difference between a legal guardianship and an adoption and it is important to understand the differences if considering either of these legal processes.

Guardianship awards an individual the responsibility to act as a temporary parent of a child

Adoption permanently relinquishes the rights and the responsibilities of a child's biological parents

A legal guardianship occurs when an individual who is not a parent of the child is granted the rights of a parent. A legal guardian will assume all of the responsibilities that a parent would have, such as:

  • financial and emotional support 
  • provide the child with the basic necessities required to survive
  • ensure that the child is receiving a proper education
  • ability to consent to medical treatment

There are many different forms of guardianship, and many of them will still allow the parents to be included in the life of the child. The guardianship may be revoked at any time if the parents show that they are able to adequately care for the child. Also, a guardianship will usually require that the parents of the child continue to provide financial support.

An adoption is the legal process by which an individual assumes all of the rights and responsibilities that are involved with parenting and caring for a  child. During an adoption, the biological parents of the child lose all rights and responsibilities that they had to that child. Legally, the parents will no longer have any say in the child's life.
After an adoption, the biological parents have no obligation to provide financial support and they have no visitation rights, unless previously agreed upon. 

An adoption is permanent and  can not be terminated or revoked by the child's biological parents. Once an adoption takes place, it is forever. Someone who chooses to take on the responsibility of adopting a child will be considered the parent of that child. Along with all of the new responsibilities, they will also acquire the rights to make any decision regarding the life of that minor.