How to Decide Between Adoption and Legal Guardianship
Roughly 8% of children in the U.S. live with family members who are not their biological parents. Though these familial arrangements can be a wonderful way of raising a child, they do come with some legal difficulties. If you are trying to decide between adoption or guardianship, here is what you need to know.
Adoption Is More Permanent
One of the big differences between adoption and guardianship is the length of commitment it entails. While many legal guardianships do continue until the child is 18, there is no guarantee the situation will last that long. Even if you are the legal guardian of a child, their legal parent still retains parental rights. They may be able to terminate the guardianship and regain custody of the child.
Meanwhile, if you become the adoptive parent of the child, all other parental rights are terminated. For all intents and purposes, you will be your young relative’s parent. No one can take the child without having to go through the lengthy process of proving you are an unfit parent in court. Furthermore, adoption lasts a lifetime. Unlike legal guardianship, you can still be the child’s next of kin, help them apply for financial aid, and perform other legal duties of a parent.
Legal Guardianships Are Often Simpler to Arrange
If you want to be the main caregiver for a young relative and act as a guardian, it is usually quite simple. All you have to do is fill out a few pieces of paperwork in court. Depending on the situation, the parent may be able to sign guardianship over to you, or you may just need to prove that the parent is unfit, and you can care for the child. In most cases, guardianship is something that can be set up in a day or two.
If you want to formally adopt a child, things get a little more complex. It is true that close relative adoptions, like grandparent adoptions, are simpler than traditional ones. However, it is still a multistep process. You’ll need to get the courts to terminate the parent’s rights and have your New Jersey adoption lawyer fill out paperwork to adopt the child. In many situations, the Department of Children and Families will also be involved. You may have to go through home studies and other steps to prove you are fit to adopt the child.
Legal Guardianship Has Different Custody and Child Support Rules
If you are a legal guardian, the child’s biological parent still has a lot of responsibility and rights. The court may order the parent to pay you child support while you care for the child. Furthermore, even if you have primary custody, the legal parent may have the right to visit the child regularly.
Depending on your family’s situation, this can be a good or bad thing. In some cases, you may want to avoid legal adoption because the child support you get helps pay for expenses. In other situations, you may be comfortable taking care of the child’s expenses and would prefer that no other parent has the right to seek partial custody or scheduled visitation.
Adoption Isn’t Affected by Changes to Your Marital Status
When you and your current spouse are caring for a child, it is important to consider how your relationship affects your legal arrangements. In the event of a divorce, legal adoption provides both parents with more rights. This happens because legal guardianship is usually only awarded to the biological family member. Even though a person’s spouse may act in a parental role, they will not automatically get guardianship alongside their partner.
This can lead to issues in a divorce because the nonbiological parental figure can end up without any access to the child. Adoptions give a little more security to both partners. Since each spouse would become the child’s adoptive parent, each spouse would have more rights if a divorce occurs.
As you can see, both legal arrangements have their own benefits. To find the right choice for your situation, it may be helpful to consult with a New Jersey adoption lawyer. At Cofsky & Zeidman, our team is happy to assist you, and we have offices conveniently located in Haddonfield and Woodbury.. We also have one in Philadelphia for our clients in that area. Schedule a consultation by filling out our contact form or by calling (856) 429-5005.