The Differences Between Guardianship and Custody

The differences between guardianship and custody

While guardianship and custody are similar, there are distinct differences between the two legal relationships between an adult and a child. The differences stem from who is considered the child’s parent. 

The main difference:

Custody is awarded to the child’s biological parents. 

Guardianship is something given to a non-biological parent. 

Additional Differences Between Custody and Guardianship

Besides defining who a parent is of a child, there are some additional differences between custody and guardianship.

1. Decision Making Authority of Guardians and Custodians

What decision-making authority do guardians and custodians have? First, we need to talk about the two types of relationships that make up child custody. Physical custody and legal custody.

With physical custody, the parent has the right to exercise physical control over a child for a predetermined period of time. This could include visitation rights to someone who is not the primary custodian of the child in question.

Legal custody is then the act of granting a custodian authority to make decisions that concern a child’s education, medical care, and other legal rights. 

Guardianship is then the act of the adult being empowered to make decisions to act on behalf of the ward for their benefit. This could even be the case of a legal guardian acting on behalf of an adult who is unable to make decisions for themselves. Most often, though; this is the case for an adult and a child. Guardians are limited in what they are allowed to do on behalf of a child. They typically only control the day-to-day decisions of the child in question.

2. Who is given custody of a child?

Custody is typically granted to either one or both of a child’s parents – which are based on several factors. These are based on the decision-making in a child’s life, the proximity of a parent to one another – how will that distance affect the decision making for the child’s life, and will the parents work with each other in order to make decisions that will affect the child’s life.

3. Who is granted guardianship of a child?

Guardians are appointed to a child when a child’s parents are incapable of caring for the child in question. These are typically due to illness, imprisonment, or a parent’s death. When either of these events happens, a third party – which could be a family friend, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or foster parents – could look to become the child’s guardian to help be a stand-in for the day-to-day responsibilities of a parent.

Who Appoints a Guardian Or a Custodian?

Only a court has the ability to grant custody over a child, though a parent may make recommendations. With guardianship, both the courts and parents may appoint a guardian. If a parent is incarcerated, they have the ability to choose who they would like to take guardianship of their child. 

For more information on Georgia Guardianship Requirements, contact the law firm of Smith Barid.


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