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Guardianship and Adoption are Not the Same

A guardianship establishes a legal relationship between a child and an adult who is not the child’s biological parent. The guardian is responsible for all the basic day-to-day needs of the child, such as food, shelter, emotional support, education, consent for medical treatment, and so forth.

There are various forms of guardianship; most of them do not nullify certain privileges or obligations of the biological parents, such as visitation, child-support payments, and inheritance when there is no will. In basic terms, the biological parents are still viewed as the child’s parents in the eyes of the law but the guardian has custody and the say today as to how the child is raised. In NH a guardianship is not “permanent”. It lasts as long as there is a need for a guardian, or until the child reaches 18, but in certain circumstances can be extended.

Adoption on the other hand is the legal process by which the natural parents rights are extinguished and new “parents” assume all the parental rights and responsibilities for the child, and this is permanent. The biological parents lose all their parental rights and are relieved of all responsibility to the child. From a legal perspective, the relationship between the biological parents and the child has been severed.

In cases of remarriage when a stepparent cannot adopt the stepchild due to the other biological parent not consenting to an adoption, the stepparent can apply for guardianship to gain more legal rights and standing.

If you have questions or concerns about guardianship or adoption, contact a family law attorney for the expert guidance you need.