What is the difference between adoption and guardianship?

This blog has previously discussed various aspects about guardianship over minor children in Massachusetts. Basically, a guardianship gives a child’s loved ones the opportunity to step in and take over parental responsibilities when a parent is unwilling or unable to do so.

It is important for prospective guardians, as well as others in Springfield, to understand the differences between a guardianship and adoption, which is another way in which other adults can fill the role of a biological parent for a child who needs one.

Perhaps the most important difference between a guardianship and an adoption is that, in the former, the biological parents’ rights may not be legally terminated. In other words, the parents may continue to have some rights to see and have authority over their child, even if the day-to-day functions of parenting fall on the child’s legal guardians. Importantly, parents may also request that a court terminate the guardianship if they feel they are ready to resume their parental role.

In contrast, an adoption is more of a one-shot deal. Whereas guardians will have ongoing involvement with the court system, at least to make mandatory reports to the court from time to time, once people adopt a child, they become in all respects the child’s parents. As a result, no further court supervision is required, just as courts typically do no supervise parents who are raising their biological children. Detailed questions about Massachusetts guardianships, however, should be directed to an attorney with experience in this area of the law.

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