How to Choose Between Adoption and Legal Guardianship
Each year, thousands of children end up with a primary caregiver who is not their biological parent. If you’re caring for a child who is not biologically yours, you have the choice of adopting them or seeking legal guardianship. To figure out whether legal guardianship or adoption will work better for your situation, you need to ask a few questions.
What Responsibilities Does Each Process Give You?
First of all, it can be helpful to consider what each process will mean for your daily life. Both adoptions and legal guardianships come with most of the same duties. You will need to ensure that the child is safe, healthy, happy, and well cared for. Both guardians and adoptive parents must provide a child with food, clothing, shelter, and age-appropriate care. Whether you are a guardian or adoptive parent, you will be able to make medical, financial, and educational decisions on the child’s behalf.
How Long Do You Want Your Responsibilities to Last?
A guardianship is usually a temporary situation. The guardian cares for the child while the parent can’t, but the guardianship is set up to end when the parent asks, after a certain amount of time, or when the child is 18. Though you might still have a parental relationship with the child once guardianship ends, you won’t automatically be considered the child’s family from a legal perspective. Meanwhile, once your New Jersey adoption attorney finalizes your adoption, you are the child’s parent for the rest of their life. This means that your care for your child can extend long past the age of 18. For example, if your adult child gets into an accident at college, their school would contact you as the child’s legal next of kin. To have the same level of involvement in an adult child’s life, a former guardian would need to fill out extra paperwork once the child turned 18.
Do You Want the Other Parents to Still Be Involved?
One of the main differences between guardianship and adoption is what happens to the child’s former parents. In an adoption, the court formally removes the previous parents’ rights and transfers them to you. Meanwhile, in a guardianship situation, the original parents still have their rights. Not only can they make decisions for the child, but they can potentially terminate the guardianship. All of this additional input can be great if you’re a grandparent caring for your grandchild while the parent is working overseas. However, if the biological parent doesn’t provide appropriate care to the child, you might want to seek adoption and ensure the previous parent cannot show up and disrupt the child’s life.
How Much Time Do You Have for Legal Matters?
Guardianships tend to be a much simpler process. You sign a few papers and are able to care for the child. Many guardians never have to go to court, and home studies aren’t usually required. Meanwhile, the adoption process tends to be lengthier. The simplest adoptions tend to be family adoptions where all parties consent, and even then, you usually have to fill out several documents and submit them for the court’s approval. If you adopt through the foster system or through a private adoption agency, things can take even longer. You may need to prepare your home for an inspection, petition the court to remove previous parents’ rights or take other steps to complete the process.
Ultimately, adoption tends to give you most of the same day-to-day responsibilities as a guardianship. However, adoption is more permanent and long-lasting. If you’re still not sure which process would work best for you, talk to a New Jersey adoption attorney. At Cofsky & Zeidman, we’re happy to go over your options and help you find the most effective solution for your family. To schedule a consultation at one of our convenient offices, contact us today. We can be reached by calling 856-429-5005 or by filling out and submitting our online form.