Guardianship and adoption are both legal mechanisms designed to give minor children a safe, supportive and nurturing environment with an adult or a family unit. Both options give the adult certain rights and decision-making authority over the minor child. However, guardianship and adoption are different in scope and legal requirements.

A minor child may require a guardian if both of their parents are unavailable or incapable of properly caring for the child. Guardianship is structured for temporary situations, meaning the parent(s) are usually expected to resume caring for the minor child, or the child is expected to reach the age of majority in the near future. A guardianship is often established for a variety of reasons, such as the parent’s serious injury or illness, military deployment or incarceration. Once the parent regains the ability to care for their child or the child turns 18, the guardianship will be terminated.

A legal guardian can generally make major decisions on the child’s behalf, including those involving health and medical treatment, living arrangements and education. A family member is oftentimes appointed as the guardian of a minor child. A guardian may resign from the position for almost any reason. On petition, a guardian may also may be removed for cause. In some instances, the guardianship can be terminated because the guardian failed to act in the child’s best interests.

In contrast to guardianship, adoption is permanent. An adoption gives the person adopting a minor child the exact same rights and obligations as a natural parent. The adoptive parent therefore has full decision-making authority and is legally responsible for providing care and financial support until the child reaches the age of majority. As part of the adoption process, the child usually gets a new name and his or her birth certificate is modified to reflect the adoptive parent(s) rather than the biological parent(s) as mother and father. An adoption can only be revoked under extraordinary circumstances and through complex legal proceedings.

Anker Law Group, P.C. in Rapid City, South Dakota is one of the region’s premier family law firms and handles both adoption and guardianship matters. Contact us online or call 605-519-5967 for an initial consultation.

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