Pennsylvania Law: Guardianship, Custody, and Adoption

More and more frequently today, families are finding themselves in a position where they are unable to care for their child(ren) on their own and seek help from family members, grandparents, or friends. It is important to know what legal avenues are available to those who find themselves stepping into a parental role. In Pennsylvania, there are guardianship, custody, and adoption options. A brief summary of each of these legal options are as follows:

Three Options for Caring for Other Children in PA


Guardianship of a child is appropriate when the parents are not around to care for the child(ren). Some reasons why parents may not be around to take care of their child(ren) are death, missing (whereabouts unknown); or they may have a serious addiction to drugs or alcohol. Guardianships are temporary and a parent can have the child returned to them at some point. This will allow the adult(s) who are caring for the child(ren) to make important decisions on their behalf in the absence of a parent (e.g., medical, school, and travel).


Custody involves the parents of a child. If there is someone else who cares for the child(ren), or visits with the child(ren) regularly, that person may also be involved in the custody matter. The Order of custody to a non-parent may be appropriate when one or both of the parents are available to care for the child(ren), but are not doing what is in the best interest of the child(ren). Custody can certainly change throughout the course of a child’s life. Grandparent custody now includes enhanced rights as we recently blogged about.


Adoption takes place when both parents give up their rights to their children, or when their parental rights have been taken away or terminated due to abuse or neglect. The people who adopt the child(ren) then become their legal parents. This is a permanent situation. Once an adoption is final, the child(ren) are now perceived by the courts to have the same legal rights as a natural child of the adoptive parents, for example inheritance through a Will, Estate Plan, or life insurance proceeds.

Contact a Family Law Attorney

If you find yourself in a position where you are caring for the child(ren) of a family member or friend, you may want to look into these legal options to protect what is in the best interest of the child(ren). Contact the Pennsylvania guardianship, custody, and adoption lawyers at Trinity Law in Lancaster, York and all surrounding counties.