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What Is the Difference Between Guardianship and Adoption of a Child?

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2014 | Family Law

In both guardianship and adoption, a legal relationship is created to enable a person appointed by the court to take care of a minor child. The guardian or adoptive parent has both physical and legal custody of the child, which includes the physical care of the child and the right and responsibility to make educational, religious, medical and other decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. Guardianship or adoption may be necessary if the parents are unwilling or unable to care for their child.

Beyond the similarity of purpose, guardianship and adoption are very different, as shown in this summary:


  • Parental rights are retained by the parent(s).
  • Parents may be given reasonable visitation.
  • Guardianship may terminate when the parents are able to care for the child.
  • The child can inherit from the guardian only if named in the guardian’s will.
  • The child has no entitlement to Social Security benefits emanating from the guardian.
  • The court may supervise guardians.


  • The birth parents’ parental rights are severed permanently.
  • The adoptive relationship between the adoptive parent and child is legally identical to that of a birth parent and child.
  • The adopted child has intestate inheritance rights to the estate of the adoptive parent.
  • The adopted child has identical rights to Social Security benefits as a birth child.
  • The court does not supervise adoptive families.

If a family friend or relative decides to care for the child without the benefit of guardianship or adoption, he or she may find some aspects of care giving to be challenging without legal authority. The Minnesota Judicial Branch has a wealth of materials available online for individuals interested in becoming guardiansor adoptive parents to children in the state.

For advice and representation from a skilled lawyer regarding guardianship, adoption and non-parental care giving, contact Hess & Jendro Law Office, P.A. to schedule a free consultation.

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