Guardianship vs. Adoption vs Custody

Guardianship vs. Adoption vs. Custody

The terminology guardianship, custody, and adoption sometimes confuse people as their differences are subtle and a bit complex. This post addresses the primary concepts you may want to be wary of when you are thinking about guardianship for your child or adopting.

What Is a Guardianship?

If you are a guardian of a child, you will have the rights and obligations to care for them until they are no longer a minor. You or a judge may also rescind the guardianship. The court could use “the child best interest” standard to determine whether it is in the child’s best interests to have you as their guardian.

Parents are allowed to be guardians, but a guardianship is usually established when a minor child is required to have someone else for making legal decisions on their behalf. In guardianships, parents keep their parental rights and obligations.

What Is Custody?

Custody is a legal arrangement that states who cares for and maintains the minor child. This usually occurs when parents are divorced or separated.

Custody either can be legal or physical. Legal custody refers to the parent’s capability to make decisions for their child. These take your child’s faith, schooling, and health care into account. Physical custody applies to where your child is going to be living.

Differences Between Custody and Guardianships

The primary difference between them is that custody requires a biological parent. For instance, which parent the child is going to live with following a divorce.

Guardianships are usually when someone other than a biological parent takes care of the child. For instance, a single parent that is in the military. In that situation, a grandparent could take care of the child if their parent is deployed.

What Is Adoption?

Dissimilar from guardianships, adoption ceases a biological parents’ rights. Alternatively, the adoptive parents have solitary custody rights over the child.

Furthermore, adoptions are everlasting arrangements and can’t be recovered by the biological parents.

Adoption or Guardianship?

In the long run, being a parent, it is your choice to consider if adoption or guardianship is in your child’s best interests. The below table details the main disparities between adoptions and guardianships, which could aid you in make a conscience choice.


  • Terminate the legal rights of the biological parents.
  • Adoptions are permanent.
  • The child is allowed inherit from their adoptive parents.
  • The parent is released of any child support duty.


  • Legal rights of the parents stay in place.
  • Guardianship is temporary.
  • Guardians must specify a provision in their will.
  • The parent might be required to be responsible for child support.


  1. Staff, F. L. (2022, November 8). Guardianship vs. custody vs. adoption. Findlaw. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from

Speak With Our Child Custody Attorney In Scottsdale

Our child custody and guardianship attorney in Phoenix and Scottsdale will advance your case with concern and personal attention and always have you and your children’s best interest in mind when offering legal solutions.

An experienced family law attorney will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your situation. We advocate for our clients, so they have the brightest future possible. Give us a call today at 480-999-0800 for a free consultation.


Jennifer Moshier Collaborative Divorce Lawyer Scottsdale Arizona
Jennifer Moshier, Scottsdale Divorce Lawyer

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