Adoption vs. Guardianship

Posted on in Family law

There are two legal routes of establishing care for a child whose parents cannot provide them with an adequate home: adoption and guardianships. In some cases, adoption, which severs any legal relationship between a child and its mother, is not in the best interest of the child. This is when guardianship comes into play, usually as a temporary legal status.


In an adoption, the adoptive parents are given all of the legal rights and responsibilities that previously belonged to the birth parents. The birth parents either have to voluntarily give up their parental rights or have them involuntarily terminated. Adoption is a lifelong, permanent legal relationship.

An adopted child has all of the same legal rights as birth children if the adoptive parents die and do not have a will, meaning the child is entitled to any inheritance or survivor’s benefits in the event of a death. In an adoption, all decision making is up to the adoptive parents, including decisions about schooling, medical treatments, or visitation of birth parents, depending on the terms of the adoption.

Adoptive parents are financially responsible for the support of the adopted child and can decide the child’s legal name, meaning they can change the first or surname of the child if they deem fit. A child over the age of 14 must consent to his or her own adoption.


A guardian is given legal responsibility for a child and assumes the responsibilities of taking care of the child until the child reaches the age of 18. Decisions concerning schooling, medical treatments, and other life decisions are made by the guardian, not the birth parents.

Birth parents do not necessarily lose parental rights of their child, unless the court involuntarily terminates them. If the birth parents’ rights have not been relinquished or terminated, the parents usually retain residual rights, which mean that the parents retain the right to reasonable visitation of the child, consent to adoption, the privilege to determine the child’s religious affiliation, and the responsibility of financial support of the child.

A guardian is responsible for financially supporting the child, but in many cases, if the birth parents’ rights have not been terminated, they will also be held responsible for contributing financially to the child’s care. In a guardianship, connections to the birth family are often upheld, and the child is able to communicate and have a relationship with them.

Determining the Best Option for Your Situation

While there are many similarities and differences between adoption and guardianship, the most important difference between the two is permanency; adoption is a permanent process, but guardianship is not. If you want to provide a stable home for a child, but there is a chance that the birth parents might be able to take responsibility of their child again, guardianship might be the way to go. If you want the child to become a permanent part of your family, adoption might be the best option.

Contact a Wheaton Adoption and Guardianship Attorney

If you are in the process of determining what is right for a child in your care, a skilled DuPage County family law attorney can help you determine the best course of action. Contact the Law Offices of Nancy Kasko, LLC to see how we can help you weigh your options. Call our Warrenville office at 630-836-8540 to schedule a consultation.