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Gregory, L. Williams, Jr., Esq., Partner. July 17, 2022

Although guardianship and adoption are two different legal arrangements, there remains some confusion surrounding these two processes. As an attorney who assists individuals and families with both guardianship and adoption, I’m often asked about the differences between them.

It is my goal to protect the rights and best interests of my clients as well as the children involved in the legal matters. With an office in Columbus, Ohio, I assist clients with all aspects of guardianship and adoption throughout Central Ohio.

Guardianship in Ohio

Guardianship is a legal arrangement where an individual is granted legal authority to make decisions for a minor child or adult person who is unable to care for their own property and personal needs due to incapacitation. Under Ohio law, a guardian can be a person who is at least 18 years of age and competent to serve as one.  

While guardians are generally appointed by courts, it is possible to name a guardian for yourself or your minor children in advance through a last will and testament. According to the Ohio State Bar Association, the guardian’s control over a ward (the person a guardian protects) is limited to the authority granted by the relevant state laws and court orders. 

A guardian must oversee the safety and welfare of the ward. A guardian’s role also includes attending to the ward’s financial needs, deciding where the ward will live, what medical care and education they will receive, and other duties.

Adoption in Ohio

According to Creating a Family, more than 115,000 children were adopted across the United States in 2019. When it comes to adopting a child, baby, or older child, Ohio recognizes four types of adoptions:

  1. Public. Public adoption refers to adoptions through the state foster care system. Usually, public adoption is possible after the court removes children from their biological parents’ homes due to neglect or abuse.

  2. Private independent. This kind of private adoption involves children who are not in the custody of the state or county. Instead, it involves direct placement between birth parents and adoptive parents.

  3. Private agency. As the name implies, private agency adoptions are facilitated by private adoption agencies after parents surrender their parental rights.

  4. International. International adoption is just what it sounds like. This kind of adoption involves adopting children or babies from other countries.

Legal Guardians vs. Adoptive Parents

People often confuse guardianship and adoption due to the many similarities between the two legal arrangements. Both guardianship and adoption:

  • Require a formal designation by the court

  • Take the child’s best interests into consideration

  • Accomplish the goal of providing stable environments for children

  • Give parents responsibility for a child even though the child is not biologically theirs

Being a legal guardian or adoptive parent can be both rewarding and challenging. The roles and duties of guardians and adoptive parents vary greatly depending on the circumstances, the child’s needs, and other factors.

Some key differences between guardianship and adoption include:

  1. Permanency. In most cases, guardianship is a temporary arrangement. Depending on the circumstances, guardianship may be effective for a set amount of time or until specific events take place. On the other hand, adoption results in the permanent placement of the child with a new family.

  2. Financial support. Adoptive parents typically take on the responsibility of providing financial support for the adopted child. With legal guardianship, biological parents are still required to financially support their children even if the court appointed a guardian for the child.

  3. Parental rights. While adoption terminates the biological parents’ rights, legal guardianship does not.

If you cannot decide between guardianship or adoption, you might want to discuss your specific situation with an experienced attorney to make the right decision.

Skilled Family Law Advocacy

As a family law attorney, I provide legal advice and skilled representation to prospective adoptive parents and legal guardians throughout Central Ohio, including Columbus. I will examine the unique facts of your case and work toward securing the best possible outcome for you and your family. You can reach out today to get a case review.