Featured News 2016 What it Means to Become a ‘Guardian’

What it Means to Become a ‘Guardian’

When it comes to caring for a child, different legal terms come into play, such as child custody, visitation, adoption, foster parenting, and guardianship. For the purposes of this post, we are going to take a closer look at what it means to become a "legal guardian" of a child.

Guardianship does not have to do with a child's biological parents. Instead, it has to do with someone other than the child's biological parents: having custody of the child, or managing the child's assets and property (estate), or it can be both. There are different reasons for a court to appoint a legal guardian for a child, such as:

  • The child's parent is incarcerated
  • The child's parents are neglecting the child
  • The child is a victim of physical or sexual abuse
  • One or both parents have a substance abuse problem
  • One or both parents have to go to drug rehab for awhile
  • The child's parent is in a mental institution
  • The child's parents are unable to care for him or her

Is guardianship the same as adoption?

No, a guardianship is not the same as an adoption. With a guardianship, the child's parents still have parental rights; this means they have every right to ask to see their child. When the parent gets out of jail or prison, or when they are able to care for their child again, they court may decide to end the guardianship. Also, guardians are often supervised by the court.

On the other hand with an adoption, the parents' rights are terminated permanently. The adoptive parents become the child's legal parents and they become fully responsible for providing the child's food, shelter, clothing, emotional support, medical care, and education.

Once a child is adopted, it's a permanent situation and the adopted family is on their own; they are not supervised by the court.

If you are interested in becoming a legal guardian of a grandchild, a niece or nephew, or of a child who needs your love and support, contact a family law attorney for legal guidance.

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