Taking personal responsibility for the welfare and enjoyment of another human being is a worthy cause that can be accomplished through two primary means in Ohio: adoption and guardianship. Each has its own legal restrictions and obligations, and each is subject to its own unique set of in-depth processes and procedures.
If you are thinking about adopting a child or an adult, if you are considering guardianship of a loved one with unique family circumstances or special needs, or if you simply have questions about which option may be best for your situation, understanding the differences between adoption and guardianship will help you begin to make informed decisions.
What is adoption?
Adoption is the process by which a nonbiological parent becomes legally-recognized as the parent of another.
In Ohio, it is possible to adopt both minors and adults, although adult adoptions are permitted only under a specific set of limited circumstances.
Once a person has been adopted, his or her adoptive parents enjoy all the rights (and responsibilities) of parenthood, and the adoptee’s biological parents lose the rights (and are absolved of the obligations) assumed by the adoptive parents.
Unless both sets of parents agree to an open adoption, the adoptee will generally cease contact with his or her biological parents once the adoption process has been completed.
What is guardianship?
Guardianship is used to provide for the financial, legal, healthcare, & personal care needs of an individual, referred to as a ‘ward,’ who is legally unable to meet these needs on his/her own.
This can be the case with a minor whose parents are no longer in the picture, or with an adult who suffers from a physical or mental disability.
A guardianship in Ohio can be established voluntarily (for example, if an adult with a physical disability desires to have a guardian appointed to assist with his or her daily needs), or involuntarily in cases where the ward is considered legally incompetent. A guardian takes on the legal responsibility to adhere to the terms of the guardianship, and his or her activities with regard to managing the ward’s affairs are subject to oversight by a judge.
What are the primary differences between adoption and guardianship?
Adoption and guardianship proceedings establish fundamentally-different relationships, and each offers different benefits under different sets of circumstances. Some of the primary differences between adoptions and guardianships include:
Biological Parental Relationship
With a guardianship, the ward’s relationship with his or her parents, whatever it may be, remains intact. The guardian does not take on the legal role of a parent, in contrast to a legal adopter. However, a guardian may petition the court for restrictions on the parents’ contact with the ward.
Timespan of Relationship
Under appropriate circumstances, a guardianship can be temporary (for example, if a minor needs to have a guardian appointed until he or she reaches age 18). However, adoption always establishes a permanent parent-child relationship.
Level of Obligation
With an adoption of a minor, the parents take on the responsibility to meet their adopted child’s financial needs. In contrast, while a guardian may be responsible for managing the ward’s finances, the guardian generally does not have an obligation to provide direct financial support for the ward.
Contact Laubacher & Co. for a Free Consultation
Laubacher & Co. is a Cleveland family law firm that represents individuals and families in all aspects of adoption and guardianship proceedings in Ohio. If you have questions and would like to speak with an attorney, we encourage you to call (855) 701-1004 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.