What's Best for You: Legal Guardianship vs. Adoption?

Legal Guardianship vs. Adoption: What’s Right for You?

One of the most common questions a Scottsdale family law attorney gets from hopeful and current parents alike is “ what is right: adoption or legal guardianship? “The answer almost all family lawyers give is that to understand the right process, you have to understand each legal terminology. You also need to find out the differences and once you do, you get to know which choice is right for you. 

So, let’s find out. 

Similarities Between Legal Guardianship and Adoption

The confusion around guardianship and adoption lies in their many similarities. The two methods confuse many prospective parents, but both work towards providing the child with a loving and stable home. In both situations, a parent or couple gets the responsibility of taking care of a child who is not their biological child. However, the effects of these two legal arrangements may vary. 

Differences between Legal Guardianship and Adoption

Legal guardianship and adoption are legal arrangements for the custody and care of children. The main difference between legal guardianship and adoption is the period for each. Legal guardianship temporarily places a child with a family member or a close friend. Adoption involves permanently placing a child with a family. 

During the adoption hearing, the adoptive parents can request a name change for the child. The child may get a new Social Security Number and birth certificate, removing the birth parent/s names and listing the new parent/s as the legal parents.

Other differences in adoption and legal guardianship include:

Parental Rights

In legal guardianship, the legal or biological parents can terminate the arrangement and take custody of the child at any time. Adoption may terminate the natural or legal parents’ rights, but legal guardianship does not interfere with the parent’s rights. The adoptive parents receive all legal parental rights, and the birth parents cannot reclaim their rights as biological parents after the finalization of the adoption process.

The adoptive parents or legal guardians get all the parental responsibilities, such as providing emotional and financial support to the child and ensuring the child receives all the necessities, including education. The parents also have the right to give medical treatment consent for the child.

Before the adoption, the adoptive and birth parents can sign an Open Adoption Agreement that specifies how often the birth parent can contact the child. With the termination of parental rights, the judge might decide that contact with the birth parents is crucial for the child's best interest. The judge may order that the birth parent stays in contact with the child. However, with no order from a judge or agreement, the contact frequency is at the adoptive parents’ discretion.


Legal guardians must make special provisions for their legal wards if they wish to bequeath them an inheritance. Adoption secures a child’s heritage and they automatically inherit from the adoptive parents. 

Child Support

Legal or biological parents may have to support their child during legal guardianship. The child’s guardian can request child support from the biological parent/s, and a court gives an order. The amounts vary according to the income of the parents. 

The payments typically last until the child turns eighteen. To change the amount, the guardians have to go back to court and get the original order modified. Adoption terminates any obligations on child support from the birth parents.

The Process

Legal guardianship is not an involving process like adoption, which requires lengthy legal processes. For instance, if it’s an infant adoption, the birth mother and adoptive parents go through a separate adoption process compared to a relative adopting an older child.

Time difference

Legal guardianship is a temporary arrangement that can end at any time, while adoption is permanent.


The child must give consent for guardianship if above fourteen years, whereas a child who is twelve years older must support the adoption.

Because of the above differences, different scenarios may call for other arrangements appropriate for the child.

Legal Guardianship or Adoption, What is Right for You?

When you know you need help with your child in need, and you wish to step in and help but aren’t sure what route to take, it can get very confusing. Ultimately, it would be best to involve the child’s parent/s, as they will have to make the final decision.

 If you are the parent and are unsure of the right thing to do, you must make decisions with the child’s interest in mind. Knowing the differences between legal guardianship and adoption makes it more accessible, and before deciding, birth parents should ask themselves a few questions.

Guardianship and adoption both offer children supportive and stable homes. If you wish to adopt a child under your legal custody, it might be possible sometimes, especially if the birth parents agree with the adoption. In such a situation, you can seek legal counsel and find out if it is possible.

Before deciding what is best between legal guardianship and adoption, you must do some due diligence. Adoption is final, unlike legal custody. Are you willing to give up all rights to your child? Does it make sense for your child to grow up with other people who are not the birth parents? Are you in a situation you might remedy and later want to live with your child? Find out the pros and cons and how the process for both works. 

However, the best way to find the right choice is by talking to a reputable family attorney like Genesis Family Law and Divorce Lawyers in Scottsdale, AZ to guide you through the process. We will explain the nuances of the law and help you decide on the best option. For more information about our firm, you can check out our website: https://familylawattorneymesaaz.net/scottsdale/

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Genesis Family Law and Divorce Lawyers in Scottsdale AZ,

7702 East Doubletree Ranch Road #336 Scottsdale AZ 85258,


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