What Parents Need To Know About Legal Guardianship vs. Adoption

Twinkle Star Home Care Services

When caring for a child that isn’t your own, you might face the choice of being a guardian or adopted parent. Both options involve a lot of paperwork — but could end with every side happier than ever. Here’s what you’ll need to know about these arrangements before beginning either one.

Defining Legal Guardians and Adopted Parents

Temporary legal guardianship is exactly that: temporary. There’s no guarantee that the child will be able to stay with you beyond the initial terms. You may be in this position because their birth parent is unwell, for example. However, biological parents can still make choices for the child if they so desire.

Adopted parents take on these rights and become the child’s permanent guardians. They’re also able to make every decision with the same authority as a biological parent. However, guardians of any kind have authority over the child’s healthcare, education, and general welfare in order to keep them safe.

Depending on the arrangement, legal guardians may not be financially responsible for the child. These situations are highly variable and usually operate on a case-by-case basis. In contrast, a child’s adopted parents will have these duties and many others. However, they might be eligible for government subsidies.

Choosing Between Guardian Arrangements

Even with the above in mind, it might be difficult to decide the right arrangement. A lot of this will depend on the child’s specific circumstances. If you do somehow have the choice of either, here are the main factors you’ll have to keep in mind:

  • Your own situation: Do you have the time and money to be a long-term parent? Or will this arrangement only work for a few years (or even months) at most?
  • Biological parents: Depending on the situation, the child’s birth parents may be able to care for them again in time. You can consult with them to find the best solution.
  • Emotional impact: Temporary situations like this can be difficult for some children. A full adoption might be the only way for them to get a clear sense of stability.
  • Legal process: Adoption is a lengthy process and may even require you to make a case in court. Legal guardianship is usually a lot less rigorous to set up and execute.
  • Existing family members: Consider how adoption will affect your children and even the child’s own birth siblings. Legal guardianship can keep them connected to their family.
  • Parental rights: If you adopt a child, their birth parents no longer have control over their decisions. Ask yourself if these are duties you’ll be able to confidently handle.
  • Expert advice: Social services and other child experts can give you precise guidance on the right arrangement. They’ll offer you insights into the finer details of each process.
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State Laws for Guardians and Adopted Parents

Some states have their own legal setup for guardians and adoptions. You’ll need to research the laws in your area. This could even impact which route works best for you and the child. Children with special needs are a particularly contentious topic. This is because almost every state has a different definition of incapacity that guardians will have to navigate.

Some parts of the country offer more independence to the child. In Massachusetts, for example, children over 14 can effectively choose their guardian. When adopting, you’ll usually need to be a citizen of that particular state. Florida, however, has no such requirement. The timeframes of each part of the adoption process will also vary from one state to another.

Always Keep the Child in Mind

While it’s important to take stock of whether an adoption or guardianship is best for you, it’s also important to think about the child. What setup would help them the most? Would a ‘full’ adoption possibly cut them off from their culture? It’s always worth talking to the child directly to see what arrangement they would prefer.

However, their opinion shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all. They might not fully understand just how serious either option is. What’s best for them and their welfare may not be what they, or you, are hoping for. Adoption could put them at the center of a long court case — which is a lot for a child to deal with.

Ask yourself this: Can you meet the child’s needs at every turn? This is a tough question, but it’s one anybody should ask when seeking permanent custody of their ward. A temporary setup can even serve as a ‘trial run,’ in a way. After some time, you can revisit the idea of adoption if every party is okay with it.

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Though guardians and adopted parents have different rights, they still fill the same role: looking after a child in need. However, you’ll still need airtight documents for either situation. Make sure you use a pre-made adoption or temporary guardianship form — this will help limit the chance of a legal challenge.