Differences Between Guardianship & Adoption

Parents have certain rights and responsibilities regarding the care, custody, and protection of their children. Those rights and responsibilities are the product of the parent-child relationship—a relationship that the law recognizes as a source of a parent’s legal rights and duties.

Generally, a parent-child relationship exists between a child and their natural parents. The parent-child relationship is necessary for a parent to exercise physical and legal custody over their child. However, a child’s natural parents are not the only people who have rights and responsibilities with regard to a minor child.

Anyone who has been appointed as a child’s legal guardian has certain legal rights and responsibilities in connection with the care and protection of a child. For example, the custodial rights of guardians are superior to most other persons. Furthermore, the custodial rights of a child’s adoptive parents are just as important as a birth parent's rights.

However, if both guardians and adoptive parents have substantial rights regarding the custody of a child, what is the difference between guardians and adoptive parents.

What Are the Benefits of Guardianship?

Anyone can be appointed as the legal guardian of a child if a court deems it necessary and convenient to do so. Guardianship is necessary if no other person—including the child’s parents—is willing and able to assume responsibility for the child’s welfare and safety.

Guardianship is not a basis for finding a parent-child relationship between the guardian and the child whom they are responsible for protecting. In fact, a nonparent appointed as guardian of a minor child can have superior authority over a parent in certain circumstances. For instance, a parent who is found to lack the capacity to adequately care for their child does not have greater authority than a guardian.

Furthermore, a designated guardian can make legal and financial decisions on behalf of adults with disabilities that render them incapable of handling their own responsibilities. Conversely, a parent does not have the authority to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of their adult-aged children. The parent must be declared by a court to be the legal guardian of their adult child.

What Are the Benefits of Adoption?

Adoption gives someone who is not the child’s natural parent the same rights and responsibilities of a natural parent. For all intents and purposes, the adoptive parent of a child has the same legal privileges and duties as a natural parent. For example, an adoptive parent’s custodial rights are presumed to be superior to that of all others. Also, an adoptive parent has important inheritance rights regarding the estate of any deceased children. In contrast, a child must explicitly provide for the inheritance of a legal guardian in their will.

However, an adoptive parent cannot attain parental rights without first terminating the parental rights of the child’s natural parent. The birth parent of a child who is placed for adoption usually agrees to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights. A person’s parental rights can only be involuntarily terminated in extreme cases that usually involve significant instances of child neglect and abuse.

Consult One of Our Skilled Attorneys at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich

If you have questions regarding the nature and extent of your rights and responsibilities as a parent or guardian of a minor child, you should speak with an experienced attorney from Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. We are committed to protecting you and your family’s best interests in proceedings involving California family law.

For a consultation regarding your rights, responsibilities, and legal options, call us at (951) 506-6654 or contact us online today.


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