Legal Guardian Vs. Parent: Differences in Family Law

Legal Guardian Vs. Parent

There is a vast intricacy in the legal landscape for the care and protection of a child. The American Family Law specializes in children’s safety and guardianship rights.   

At first, you might face some differences when you hear the term legal guardian. Isn’t a legal guardian supposed to be a parent- that’s the first thought that comes to your mind. Even though they sound almost similar, the two have a thin line of difference. What? Keep reading the blog to find out.   

Understanding American Family Law

Understanding American Family Law

US family law emphasizes the well-being of children more than any other factor. It covers the various aspects of legal disciplines where adoption, child custody, parental rights, and legal guardianship play a much more significant role than divorce, alimony, and other nuptial matters.   

US family law addresses every problem relating to parental rights and safeguards children who might be facing abuse at home. They always strive to protect children from any harmful circumstances of domestic violence and other significant issues.   

US family laws are also extremely challenging when it comes to law impositions. The law statutes are compassionate and committed to handling any problem addressing children’s safety of family law. A child’s well-being is put under great emphasis when it comes to even dealing with issues of divorce and child custody.   

Legal Guardian vs. Parent: Key Differences

As mentioned previously, they might seem the same, but they are slightly different from one another.   

Legal guardianship is something that the court grants to an individual if they are not the biological parents of a minor (a person below the age of 18). Guardianship or custody deals with a parent caring for a minor as their own. Legal guardianship is a rare case where the biological parent’s custody is revoked for some violent circumstances.   

The above point explains the roles and responsibilities in a nutshell. However, there is more to it. They are:   

Relationship Establishment 

Legal Guardians: They are granted guardianship through court orders.   

Parents: They have been biological guardians since birth, and there is no need for court intervention.   

Authority and Decision Making   

Legal Guardians: They are limited to the authorities granted by the court and only make those decisions that are best for their ward.   

Parents: They already have primary authority over their children, including but not limited to upbringing, decisions, healthcare, and religion.   

Rights Termination   

Legal Guardians: This can be terminated via court procedure if the guardian deems unfit or if it doesn’t serve the best interest of the child.   

Parents: The rights can be terminated by the court in rare cases of neglect, abuse, and abandonment. However, unlike its legal guardianship counterparts, it is more stringent and complex.   

Inheritance Rights   

Legal Guardians: Legal guardians might have limited or no inheritance rights from the ward unless specified in the will.   

Parents: They have automatic inheritance rights from their children and vice versa, even with a will or not with a will.   

Financial Support Obligations   

Legal Guardians: They are lawfully obligated to cater to every child’s need and provide them with financial assets specifically prescribed by the court order.   

Parents: They are obligated to provide financial assistance to their children in any case, even without a court mandate.   

Legal Standing in Court   

Legal Guardians: They can represent their wards in different legal proceedings but do not possess the same standings as parents.   

Parents: They are automatically obligated to have their child’s best interest in mind and can represent their child in any court proceeding.   

Responsibility Duration 

Legal Guardian: The responsibilities of a legal guardian are limited to the court provisions and can be revoked anytime if the court deems it necessary.   

Parents: The parents are responsible for the well-being of their wards for a lifetime. However, their rights can be revoked in cases of negligence, abuse, and other cases of domestic violence.   

The family court primarily appoints Legal Guardianship in different places in the US. The court assigns guardianship to a person as a last resort if the child is undergoing domestic violence, abuse, and other unwanted circumstances. Legal guardianship is granted based on three different categories. They are:   

Guardianship of a Person   

An adult who has the legal custody of a minor is responsible for their physical and personal needs. However, the child’s parents should provide financial support no matter what. The legal guardian, however, has to ensure the minor’s access to food, clothing and shelter. The legal guardian can even consent for the child and make the decisions that do them good. As a legal guardian you can continue the child’s custody unless they reach the age of eighteen. This remains as a presiding decision, unless the judge rules that the minor won’t require a guardian anymore.  

Guardianship of an Estate

If a minor owns a significant amount of money or property, the court appoints a financial guardian, also known as an estate guardian, to manage and preserve the minor’s assets. A guardian of the estate is responsible for all financial decisions for the minor until the minor reaches legal age or the minor’s assets are gone.  

Guardian ad litem

Guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent the interests of minors in judicial proceedings. Guardians’ ad litem is often set in divorce, probate, or circumstances involving child abuse or neglect.  

Factors Affecting to Choose a Legal Guardian  

There are rare cases when the legal guardianship of a child is given away to someone else. They are:   

The Relationship Dynamic Between the Child and the Parents

If the relationship with the current guardian is causing the child to have emotional distress.   

Parental Preference   

If the biological parents themselves prefer to look after their child rather than them.   

Stability and Suitability   

The guardian’s stability and suitability to provide the child with a safe environment and a nurturing upbringing.   

Financial Resources   

If the biological parents do not have the specific financial resources to take care of a child.   

Geographical Location   

The proximity of the current guardian’s location with the schools, hospitals, and other places in the community is important for the child’s well-being.   

Health and Age   

The current guardian has deteriorating mental or physical health that can severely cause harm to the upbringing of the child.   

Parenting Styles and Values   

The parental styles and values of the current guardian are harmful to the child, and hence, a new guardian should be appointed for the child’s welfare.   

Family Support Systems   

If the family situation is not preferable and abusive to the child, it will put a mental toll on the child.   

Background Checks and Character References   

If the current parent is engaged in any criminal activities that can endanger the child’s upbringing and cause severe mental damage to the child.   

Child Custody   

Child custody is subsequently divided into two sub-parts: Legal and Parental Custody. They seem to be the same, but there is a thin line of difference between them. They are:   

Legal custody is the authority the court grants to make important decisions related to the child’s healthcare, education, and religious upbringing. Like physical custody, the court grants legal custody, which can be sole or joint based on the court’s decision. These legal custody are primarily determined during divorce cases where the court looks after the child’s best interest.    

Physical Custody 

This determines the geographical proximity of the child. In this case of sole physical custody, the child resides with one of the parents, and in joint custody, the child spends a significant amount of time with both parents as prescribed by the court rules and regulations.   

Parental Custody   

This custody automatically resides with a guardian who has a biological relationship with the child. However, the court can revoke this in cases of any misdemeanors committed by the legal guardian.   

Rights of the Child

Rights of the Child

Every child deserves to be happy. Even if they are facing an emotional toll from their parents’ divorce, they have the right to be satisfied. Here, we have listed down some of the child’s rights that shouldn’t hinder the opportunity of having a parental connection.   

Rights to relationship with extended family   

Each child can maintain contact with loved extended family members without choosing sides. Parents shouldn’t ever attempt to influence their children’s attitudes toward their extended family members.   

Aside from not interfering with their relationship, co-parents should consider actively assisting their children in maintaining such bonds. It sometimes requires the involvement of both parents to ensure that their child’s ties with the other side of their family remain strong.  

The right to live free of conflict between their parents  

Every child deserves to enjoy a life free of parental conflict and anxiety. Try to work together to protect your child from this constantly. This could entail temporarily restricting your communication in a closed system that protects minors from mistakenly accessing or overhearing heated talks. When a dispute arises, try pausing text messages and phone conversations.  

The right not to be a messenger in the parent’s conflict

In addition to being safeguarded from conflict, every kid ought to be free from serving as a messenger between their parents. Even if communication is without dispute, when parents place the duty of expressing information on their children, they unfairly burden them with adult obligations. Instead, parents should look for a communication method that encourages effective and unambiguous information exchanges.  

The right not to be a sounding board for either or both of their parents

Every child must be free to serve as a sounding board or “therapist” for either parent. They should never bear additional emotional weight. Even if parents are careful of what they say to their children, they are likely to notice when their parents are unhappy, anxious, or furious. To keep young children from worrying about adult issues and obligations, assist them in building coping skills.  

The right to express their heart

Children have the right to express their feelings regarding divorce. They should be able to express their feelings to both parents without guilt or fear. Parents should show their kids how much they care, pay close attention to what their child says, and do everything they can to provide the support their child requires to deal with their emotions healthily, even if that involves obtaining the assistance of a professional.  

The right to ask for stability

Every child has the right to live as they did before the divorce. If major changes are unavoidable, the child deserves to know what will happen ahead of time, whether it be a move, a change in schools, or even a parent’s remarriage.  

Cross-Border Implications of Parental Rights    

The legal ramifications of cross-border parental rights in the United States can be complex and may entail several aspects, including:  

Jurisdictional Issues

Determining jurisdiction over custody and visitation when parents live in separate states or countries.  

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act   

The UCCJEA establishes principles for deciding jurisdiction in interstate custody matters. However, problems may emerge when parents live in different nations.  

International Treaties and Conventions  

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction offers a framework for resolving international child custody issues. But, not all nations are members, and enforcement can be difficult.  

Recognition of other Judgments

Determine if US courts will accept and enforce custody orders made by other courts and under what conditions.  

Parental Kidnapping and Abduction

Addressing situations of parental kidnapping or abduction, which occurs when one parent takes a child across international lines without the approval of the other parent or violates a custody order.  

Travel Restrictions and Passport Issue

Implement protections to prevent unlawful travel with children, such as requesting parents’ approval for minor passport issues.  

Dual Citizenship and Immigration Issues

Understanding the legal ramifications for children with dual citizenship, including custody and visiting rights.  

Enforcing Visitation Orders

 Enforcing visiting orders across borders and overcoming practical issues for parents living in separate nations.  

Cultural and legal variations across nations affect parental rights, custody arrangements, and children’s best interests.  

Securing expert international family law representation to negotiate the complexity and argue for the best interests of both the kid and the parent.  

Final Words

There you have it, the minute differentiations between legal guardianship and parents. Did your queries get resolved at the end of this blog? I guess so. If you have any other doubts, contact us and learn about the legal implications of adhering to US family law. We are happy to help! 

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Titas Ghosh Chaudhury
Titas is a lawyer with a penchant for writing. In her leisure hours she likes to read books and collect Pokemon plushies and stay updated with different law judgements.

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