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Final Adoption vs Guardianship: Terminology Explained

May 12, 2014

When dealing with the adoption process, it can be very easy to get a little lost in the terminology, especially when things sound so similar. Legal custody, guardianship, final adoption… all of these terms sound so similar, and people often use them interchangeably. Yet, there are distinct differences that are very important to know and fully understand.


Final Adoption:

Final adoption is exactly what it sounds like.

-Biological parents permanently relinquish all parental rights

-Adoptive parents have permanent, full parental rights

-Adoptive parents assume the rights and responsibilities involved in parenting and caring for the child



With legal guardianship or legal custody, the

-Guardians assume the responsibilities of parents in the child’s life

-Guardians provide the emotional and financial needs of the child

-One or both biological parents have not relinquished their rights

-Guardianships usually are not permanent and can be revoked at any time if the parents prove capable of providing for the child

-In the United States, guardianship or legal custody may be given to foster parents or a single parent when the other parent is not capable of caring for the child


Some countries do not allow final adoptions, but instead, grant guardianships. This allows the child to leave his or her country of origin. If this is the case with your child, the final adoption has to occur under the laws of the adopting parents’ state of residence. With guardianship, your child may be eligible to immigrate to the United States using an IH-4 or IR-4 immigrant visa.


Once you and your child arrive back in the United States, it is extremely important to finalize the adoption as soon as possible so your child is eligible for U.S. citizenship. Not finalizing the adoption and securing U.S. citizenship for your child can negatively impact the child’s future life, including travel, eligibility for education scholarships and grants, employment, and voting.


If you have any questions regarding the information above or about adoption, contact us at 662-842-6752.