When taking responsibility for a child who needs the care and guidance of a parental figure, it’s important to follow the correct legal channels to ensure his or her welfare. This includes either adopting the child or establishing guardianship depending which is most appropriate for your specific situation. In the simplest terms, a guardian has temporary custody of the child while adoption is permanent.
Like an adoptive parent, a guardian is responsible for all aspects of the child’s well-being. This includes food, clothing, medical care, housing, and education. If an estate or trust has been established for the child, the guardian is also responsible for managing financial affairs until the child turns 18.
While a guardian has the legal right and responsibility to care for and make decisions on behalf of the child, his or her birth parents maintain a legal relationship. The guardianship is established as a temporary caregiving solution when the legal parent is unable to provide care. In some cases, this arrangement may last until the child turns 18.
The birth parents can choose to terminate the guardianship and regain custody at any time. While the guardianship is in effect, they may be required to pay court-ordered child support to the legal guardian.
If you serve as a legal guardian, the child will not automatically be considered your heir by the court. If you wish for him or her to inherit property, you must dictate these wishes in your will.
Adults may take on short-term care of a child without legal guardianship if his or her parents agree with this arrangement. However, if the child remains with you for more than a few weeks, you will not be able to seek medical care or school enrollment on his or her behalf without a guardianship.
The Facts About Adoption
When a child is adopted, the adoptive parent is considered his or her parent in the eyes of the law. The birth parents’ rights are terminated and they are not entitled to visitation or required to pay child support. In the case of an open adoption, however, a legal visitation agreement may be established if both the birth parents and the adoptive parents desire ongoing contact.
When the adoption process is complete, the birth parents cannot seek to regain custody. Upon the death of the adoptive parent, the child will be legally considered his or her heir and will inherit the estate unless the will states otherwise.
Guardianship and adoption laws vary by state. If you need assistance with this life-changing decision, contact the team of attorneys at American Legal Care.