PA Adoptions: Guardianship Agreements vs. Adoption


There are several differences between a guardianship/custody agreement and adoption. The main difference is the permanency of the adoption. In Pennsylvania, when a child is adopted into a family, that child is treated by the law as a natural child of the adoptive parents, and those rights cannot be taken away through divorce or death.

The court will look at a third party who tries to get custody of a child differently in a custody/guardianship agreement than it would a third party who is trying to adopt a child. Parents who adopt a child assume the same parental rights that a biological parent would have over the child.


Guardianship/custody agreements are not meant to be permanent, and can change or be modified by the court. There is no inheritance, social security, or automatic rights that come along with a custody agreement.

However, with an adoption, you become part of the family and enjoy all the rights and benefits associated with being a son or daughter of that family. The inheritance rights arising when an individual dies without a will, or if they have a pension, or if a parent enjoys social security benefits, an adoptive child can take as a natural child would in those circumstances.


Guardianship agreements can cease at any time the person granting guardianship powers so decides.  Custody agreements may cease through court orders, when a child turns 18 years old, or when the parties desire to create different custody arrangements.

Adoption is permanent and cannot be changed.  It provides more stability and longevity for the child by ensuring a child grows and is nurtured in a two-parent home.

Guardianship/custody agreements are convenient for several reasons.

  • First, they provide temporary custody arrangements for children who may need removed from an abusive environment until something more permenant can arise.
  • Second, the agreements can limit the rights one person has over the child so the biological parents’ rights remain in tact.
  • Finally, they can be flexible and modifiable to fit specific needs and particular circumstances that parties may have, such as giving rights to another person temporarily to make a medical or educational decision for a child.

Adoption, however, provides the most stable, consistent, and nurturing environment for a child.

If you have questions about a Pennsylvania adoption, or are considering beginning this process yourself, please contact the adoption lawyers at Trinity Law at or call 717-843-8046.