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Legal guardianship vs. adoption

On Behalf of | May 24, 2022 | Guardianships |

In an ideal world, parents would always be able to meet their children’s needs. Sadly, this is not the reality for all families.

When a parent can not provide appropriate care, the court may award guardianship to a family member or other non-parent adult. While guardianship is similar to adoption in some ways, there are many important differences.


In Delaware, you must be at least 21 to adopt a child. However, anyone aged 18 or older may be eligible to be a legal guardian.

Parental rights

Unlike adoption, guardianship does not require the termination of the biological parent’s parental rights.

After appointing a guardian, the court may award visitation rights to the parent and require the guardian to communicate with the parent about the child. Parent and child retain inheritance rights during guardianship.

Guardian’s rights

Although guardianship is not adoption, guardians have some of the same rights and responsibilities as adoptive parents. They are responsible for the child’s welfare. They can choose schools, make medical decisions and give consent for a teenager to marry or enlist in military service.


While adoption is permanent, many guardianship arrangements are temporary. Delaware law states that the court can end a guardianship if it is no longer necessary.

However, if the situation requires it, the court may terminate parental rights and award permanent guardianship to a non-parent. This generally occurs when adoption is impossible or not in the child’s best interest.

Guardians play a significant role in the care and upbringing of children. When parents are unable to care for a child, guardianship allows the child to grow up in a safe and stable environment.