What Is the Difference Between Adoption and Legal Guardianship?

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What Is the Difference Between Adoption and Legal Guardianship?

Jan 16, 2020 | Adoptive Family Resources, Birth Mother Resources | 0 comments

Legal guardianship and adoption share some characteristics. However, there are some significant differences between these two types of legal arrangements. In this article, we examine the similarities and differences between adoption and legal guardianship.


The reason people get these two arrangements confused is that they share the goal of caring for a child and providing a stable home. They also give someone the parental responsibilities to care for a child who is not their offspring. Therefore, the adoptive parent or legal guardian must provide financial and emotional support and perform all aspects of the parental role.


The terms of guardianship and adoption agreements vary greatly. Below are the primary differences between the two.

  • Duration — The most obvious difference is that adoption is permanent, while guardianship is temporary.
  • Parental rights — Adoption terminates the rights of the biological parents, while guardianship keeps these rights intact. That means a biological parent can reclaim custody of the child in a guardianship arrangement. In adoption, the biological parent cannot reclaim the child once the adoption is final and they relinquished parental rights.
  • Child support — In a legal guardianship, the biological parents may be required to provide financial support for the child. In adoption, the biological parents have no such obligation, as they no longer have parental rights or responsibilities.
  • Inheritance — Adoption secures inheritance rights, while guardianship does not. However, legal guardians can create a provision in their will for inheritance purposes.
  • Legal process — The legal procedure to adopt a child is more complicated than legal guardianship.

Which Arrangement Is Best for You?

Every situation is unique, so you should take some time to determine which scenario is right for you. Here are some things to consider:

  • Does the child need a permanent or temporary solution?
  • Do the biological parents have the intention and ability to parent in the future?
  • What type of relationship do the biological parents want with the child in the future?

Ultimately, the biological parents make the decision, whether adoption or guardianship is the best choice.

Moving From Guardianship to Adoption

If you are currently the legal guardian of a child and want to adopt the child, this could be an option. It depends on the situation and the biological parents’ desire to place the child in a permanent arrangement. As stated above, the biological parents typically voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to finalize an adoption. They must be in favor of your plan to adopt unless the child is in foster care and the court decided to terminate their parental rights.

Benefits of Adoption and Legal Guardianships

As a biological parent, both of these arrangements can provide a stable and loving home for your child. It takes strength and courage to make either choice.

As an adoptive parent or legal guardian, you have the opportunity to open your home and heart to a child.

For more information and assistance with adoption or legal guardianship in Florida, contact Tammi Driver Law. 727-800-6681